West Indies have begun their two-week quarantine period in Christchurch ahead of their T20I and Test series in New Zealand, after a gruelling 54-hour journey from Barbados.
Squad members not involved in the IPL left Barbados on Tuesday, initially flying to London before further stops in Dubai and Auckland. Having already played a three-Test series in England in July, West Indies are the only international team to have embarked on two overseas tours in the Covid-19 era.
#NZvWI THEY’VE ARRIVED!
The West Indies touring party has landed at the Christchurch Airport in NZ.
— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) October 30, 2020
After passing their first health test on arrival, the touring squad will initially be based at the New Zealand high-performance centre at Lincoln University in Christchurch, where they will be able to train after day four of their quarantine period. The low incidence of Covid-19 in New Zealand means that players will be able to interact with society following their quarantine, unlike on the England tour when the squad was confined to a biosecure bubble.
Speaking to the Mason and Guest radio show in Barbados, Cricket West Indies CEO Johnny Grave said that the board had learned from the England tour that it was important to keep those players not picked for the Test side active, and as such, two four-day West Indies A fixtures have been scheduled: the first at Mount Maunganui to run alongside the first Test, the second at Nelson coinciding with the second Test.
“At the end of the T20 series, about half the squad are going to fly back to the Caribbean, and about half the team – along with the six reserves, and probably the 14th and 15th members of the Test squad – will form an ‘A’ team,” Grave said.
“For some of those T20 players who have played so much white-ball cricket for West Indies during the West Indies Championship over the last couple of years, it’s going to be the first opportunity they’d have had in probably two years to play some red-ball cricket.” While discussions are ongoing as to which players will stay on, Fabian Allen, Brandon King and Nicholas Pooran are expected to be among them.
Grave also confirmed that players and support staff will continue to receive 50% of their salaries, as has been the case since July, though match fees will be paid in full. The backroom staff on the tour are largely similar to the group that travelled to England, with Monty Desai, Andre Coley and Trevor Penney added and Floyd Reifer – who is standing as an MP in Barbados – replaced.
West Indies were winless on their last tour of New Zealand in 2017-18, losing both Tests, all three ODIs, and escaping with a 2-0 defeat in the T20I series thanks to a no-result in the second match. Roddy Estwick, one of the assistant coaches, admitted that New Zealand would be a “very, very difficult” side to play against, but said on arrival that he was optimistic about their chances.
“I think we’ve got to win series now,” Estwick said. “We win the odd Test match – you can look at all the teams we’ve played in the last two years – we’ve won one Test match, but we haven’t won the series. It’s important that we put two or three performances together, not one good performance and we tend to fade away. We’ve got to win series and there’s no doubt about that, and we’ve got to start here in New Zealand by trying to win this series by playing good, positive, hard disciplined cricket.
“New Zealand is a very, very difficult side playing at home. We’ve got to be up and we’ve got to execute properly. We’ve got to sit down, and we’ve got to plan. We know what it was like last time and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready because nobody goes to New Zealand and wins easily.
“You’ve got to be prepared to scrap. Sometimes they can be very patient and you’ve got to match that patience as well. We’ve got to leave no stone unturned to make sure we can combat New Zealand.”