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 already registered. On Wednesday alone, there were 245 deaths and 1,003 cases recorded.
Lockdown restrictions are only being gradually eased in England, but the West Indies arrived on Tuesday for a tour in which the first Test doesn't begin until July 8 under stringent health and safety protocols. 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, though.
“It's great for the game, brilliant, that we're closing in on getting some test cricket played after a decent layoff,” Anderson said on Thursday, referring to the shutdown of the international game since mid-March.
“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 virus outbreak and the players will go into the series against West Indies 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 over the past year, most recently needing to leave the team's tour of South Africa in January with a rib problem. He has bowled only 74 overs since August.
Anderson is among a group of 55 players asked to return to England training ahead of the West Indies series and has been bowling in the nets while following social-distancing measures.
“I managed to tick over quite well during lockdown. Luckily, I've got enough space to fit half my run-up in on my drive,” he said.
“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, so 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.”