Dubai: The upcoming Test series between the West Indies and England, scheduled to be held in a bio-secure environment in July, will be like a ‘‘oasis for cricket,’’ according to former Caribbean pace legend Michael Holding.
The West Indies are scheduled to arrive in England on June 9 (Tuesday), following which they will be based at the Old Trafford for nearly three weeks of quarantine and training, before moving to Hampshire for playing their first Test at the Ageas Bowl and then both second and third Tests at Old Trafford, respectively. The tour is still subject to a final seal of approval from the UK government.
‘‘It’s some sort of a start. The England and Wales Cricket Board has worked hard for it,’’ the 66-year-old Holding, who will also be travelling to England as a TV pundit for Sky Sports, told his Youtube channel.
Asked if the ‘containment’ would be too much a stifling affair for the travelling players, Holding disagreed: ‘‘I am not sure if confinement of the players is going to be a problem as all around the world, so many people are being confined in their small apartments. The players, who will be kept in the same floor of their hotel, will be tested to be free of the virus and they can move into each other’s rooms for a chat or may be play cards or Dominoes.
It will be a completely different experience as under normal circumstances, the camera moves away to the crowd to catch their reaction after a great catch or a fine knock by a batsman. We would be normally silent during those situations. However, with no fans in the stands this time, I think we will have to talk more
‘‘Yes, the things they will not be able to do are stepping out for a dinner or a night club or do some shopping. However, it’s a short tour of 21 days and should not pose much of a problem,’’ he said.
The West Indies, despite their inconsistent form in the five-day format, had really acquitted themselves well during the last two two series against England - winning 2-1 at home last year while they lost by the same margin during their tour of England in 2017. ‘‘They didn’t do badly during the tour of 2017 and at least 70-75% of the squad this time are the same,’’ Holding said, pausing to add that they will miss batsmen like Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer though, who along with all-rounder Keemo Paul, opted out of the series because of COVID-19 fears.
“I think it’s unfortunate as far as West Indies cricket is concerned,” said the man they called ‘Whispering Death’ for his fluid action.
“I’m not going to tell anyone that they should be going to England because COVID-19 is around, someone may get sick or even worse,” he said. “But at the same time I think it’s unfortunate for the West Indies team because these guys have quite a bit of talent, and they’ll be missed.”
“I’m sorry that Bravo in particular isn’t going because Bravo, I think, needs to resuscitate his career. He hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential,” he said.
As a commentator, Holding has always enjoyed a widespread appeal for not holding back any punches, hence it will be quite a loss for his followers as the Jamaican has already announced that 2021 will be last year at the commentary box.
How different will it be to do justice to his job in the upcoming series, to be played without fans? ‘‘It will be a completely different experience as under normal circumstances, the camera moves away to the crowd to catch their reaction after a great catch or a fine knock by a batsman. We would be normally silent during those situations. However, with no fans in the stands this time, I think we will have to talk more,’’ he added with a smirk.