BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Cricket West Indies’ chief selector Roger Harper believes not having to contend with England fans in next month’s Test series could work to the advantage of the Caribbean men.
The two sides will face each other in three matches that will be played behind closed doors as part of restrictions agreed for the tour to go ahead amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 41,000 people in England.
The first of the matches in the “bio-secure” tour will be held at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on July 8, while the other two will be played at Old Trafford in Manchester on July 16 and 24.
Speaking on the Mason & Guest cricket radio show here Tuesday night, Harper said he expects the team to be very competitive but said the players must utilise the period ahead of the games to get “acclimatised…to the conditions in England and everything about England and make sure that when the first ball in the first Test match is bowled, then we are really ready”.
“The idea is to be ready from ball one, not to be looking to get slowly into the game but really to try and jump on the opposition from early,” he said.
“One of the things that could play in our favour is the fact that there are no crowds, so you don’t have that Barmy Army bellowing at you and inspiring the home team. This will be like a neutral venue so we can really focus on our cricket and doing what we need to do.”
Harper was confident West Indies could win their first series in England in 32 years.
While captain Jason Holder said earlier this week the squad would not be relying on their recent success against England for motivation to retain the Wisden Trophy which they won in the series in the Caribbean last year, Harper said that achievement should give them hope that victory was not out of their reach.
“I don’t think anyone gave us a chance last year when England toured the West Indies. They themselves took it for granted that they’d win the series and they got a shock of their lives. So, I think just looking at that we should have that belief that we can do it,” he said.
“And I think we need our senior guys, the guys who’ve toured England before – our batters in particular, because I’m confident our bowlers will hold their own – to step out; the guys who’ve been to England, who’ve been around, to really come to the party and be up front and consistent and allow some of the other guys who’re touring there for the first time to be able to play around them.
“Once we can score 600 runs in a Test match consistently, I think we have a chance of winning. That means we have to try and get 350 in our first innings, and we have to do that on a regular basis and we give ourselves a good chance of winning,” he added.
The 25-man West Indies contingent, which includes 11 reserves, arrived in Manchester on Tuesday where they will remain under quarantine for two weeks. During that period, they will intensify training for the series which is the first one to be played since the global cessation of cricket due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chairman of the Cricket West Indies selection panel, Roger Harper.