England fast bowler James Anderson has praised the West Indies players for making a “scary decision” to travel to Britain for the three-test cricket series during the coronavirus pandemic.
While many islands on the Caribbean have been struck by fewer than 100 cases of Covid-19, the United Kingdom has been one of the world’s hardest-hit countries with more than 40,000 coronavirus deaths.
Lockdown restrictions are only being gradually eased in England, but the West Indies arrived on Tuesday for a tour under stringent health and safety protocols with the first Test starting on 8 July.
The players, in quarantine in Manchester, will continue to be tested regularly and live, train and play in a secure environment.
Three West Indies players - Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul – turned down the chance to travel.
Anderson said: “It’s great for the game, brilliant, that we’re closing in on getting some Test cricket played after a decent lay-off.
“From our point of view, we’re very grateful the West Indies are coming over here. With what’s going on in the world, I can imagine it’s a scary decision for a lot of them, for all of them, to make the journey over.”
England’s tour of Sri Lanka was cut short in March because of the pandemic and the players will go into the West Indies series without any competitive cricket behind them, which is especially problematic for the 37-year-old Anderson. England’s all-time leading wicket-taker has struggled with injuries in the past year, most recently needing to leave the tour of South Africa in January with a broken rib. He has bowled only 74 overs since August.
Anderson is among a group of 55 players asked to return to training ahead of the West Indies series and has been bowling in the nets with social-distancing measures.
Around 30 of those players are due to be kept on as part of an enlarged squad in preparation for the first Test and Anderson knows to expect more rotation than usual.
He said: “Obviously there are concerns – we’re not going to have had any competitive cricket before that first Test match and we’ve got three Tests in quick succession,.
“There are obviously things we need to look at in terms of workloads and whether we play all three as bowlers or whether we rotate.
“I’m sure the medical staff and coaches are doing their due diligence on that.
“It’s something we’ll have to look at in a few weeks’ time but at the moment I’m enjoying being back and feeling really good.”
Anderson has been bowling to Test opener Keaton Jennings at Emirates Old Trafford in recent days, a welcome step up from his improvised home-based drills .
“Training has been going really well, I managed to tick over quite well during lockdown,” he said.
“Luckily I’ve got enough space to fit half my run-up in on my driveway, so when I came back to training at Lancashire it’s not been going in cold. I felt like I hit the ground running pretty well. I’ve enjoyed being back.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan have confirmed that they will tour England for three Tests and three Twenty20s in August and September.
The Pakistan Cricket Board intends to send 28 players and 14 support personnel but left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir and middle-order batsman Haris Sohail will not be among that number.
“Amir has withdrawn so that he can be at the birth of his second child in August, while Haris will miss the tour because of family reasons,” read a PCB statement said.
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