Ashley Giles, England’s director of cricket, said on Tuesday the situation was a “concern” but the tour was not currently in doubt. Pakistan’s squad is scheduled to fly to Britain on Sunday for three tests and three Twenty20s in England from August.
“We are far enough away from the start of the test series to not worry about that too much at the moment,” Giles said on a video call. “We are waiting on those other test results,” Giles added. “We still are far enough out, even if a number of those results were still positive, but this is the difference with international sport. We need to get our opposition in (the) country. Anything that puts that at risk or in danger is clearly a problem.”
The coronavirus is spreading in Pakistan at one of the fastest rates in the world, with new cases in the country leaping from around 2,000-3,000 a day in late May to up to 6,800 a day in mid-June. On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 105 new COVID-19 deaths and the total cases in a country of 220 million has risen to 185,034.
Pakistan has warned that cases of infections could hit a stunning 1.2 million by the end of July if Pakistanis continue to flout even the most basic precautions like mask wearing. Giles acknowledged there was a risk that the upcoming three-match series against the West Indies, scheduled to take place in July in isolation in Southampton and Manchester, could be the only test cricket played in England this summer.
“All of this has uncertainty still, even to any degree the West Indies series, because we know how fast moving this situation has been around the world,” he said. “We have been very careful at every step. Do we really know what’s around the corner? No. The bubble at the Ageas Bowl (in Southampton) and Old Trafford (in Manchester), that’s why we are trying to create environments that mitigate as much risk as we possibly can.”
The latest round of test results from Pakistan players are due late Tuesday. Dr. Sohail Saleem, the Pakistan Cricket Board director of medical and sports sciences, said on Monday that touring England was a “big risk” but necessary to help the country get through the crisis.
Giles agreed. “There are far more important things going on than sport,” he said. “But we are hopeful that if we can get international sport on, it will be a real fillip for many people around the world.”
England’s 30-man training group was reporting at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday and being tested for COVID-19 on arrival along with the management team as preparations step up ahead of the West Indies series starting on July 8.
The group will isolate in the hotel at the ground, spending most of the time in their rooms while waiting for the results. England’s first day of practice will be on Thursday, with half the group training in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.
The West Indies squad completed its 14-day isolation period on Monday and started a three-day internal warmup match in Manchester on Tuesday. West Indies captain Jason Holder and vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite led separate teams.
Holder was in charge of a 12-man lineup comprising a strong bowling attack, including himself, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Rakheem Cornwall. Brathwaite’s group of 13 contained most of the first-choice batsmen.
Both sides wore the West Indies’ navy blue-and-maroon training kit for the match, with the test match whites still being prepared.
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