West Indies Women

(Flashback)West Indies Women cricketers pose with their trophy in Karachi, Pakistan, yesterday, following their 3-0 One-Day International series triumph over Pakistan. —Photos: CWI Media

With the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe now abandoned and travel restrictions being implemented for persons coming out of southern Africa, Cricket West Indies is working feverishly to ensure the safety of its players as they plot the safest and fastest route back to the Caribbean.

The West Indies women were competing in the qualifiers to try and earn a place in next year’s main event. However a new Covid-19 variant of concern, designated Omicron, has been spreading in southern Africa, resulting in new travel restrictions being put in place.

The West Indies were due to face Sir Lanka in their second match of the tournament yesterday but that fixture had to be scrapped due to Covid positive results within the Sri Lankan camp. ICC then took the decision to abandon the entire tournament, citing the emergence of the latest variant in South Africa and the introduction of travel restrictions from a number of African countries, including the host country Zimbabwe.

The qualification slots for the World Cup were therefore decided by team rankings, in keeping with the tournament’s playing conditions with West Indies, Bangladesh and Pakistan progressing to the World Cup in New Zealand to be played from March 4 to April 3 next year.

Commenting on the cancellation of the tournament, CWI chief executive officer Johnny Grave said: “There are about just under 200 players, officials and support staff in Zimbabwe for the World Cup qualifiers and obviously a key consideration is how we can get everyone home quickly and safely, so we’re now in discussions with the ICC in order to get the West Indies women’s team back into the region as quickly and safely as we can, and hopefully over the next 24 hours we will be able to confirm those flights and they will start making their way back to the Caribbean.”

Meanwhile, West Indies head coach Courtney Walsh supported the move and felt it was the right decision to ensure the safety of all given the recent developments.

“Yes, it’s disappointing that the tournament had to be cancelled. I’m sure all the teams here participating would be disappointed as it is a chance to put all your skills on show and especially the teams vying to get to the World Cup, there’s going to be disappointment,” said Walsh.

“I think the right decision was taken by not putting the teams at risk, especially with the recent developments happening. We are obviously delighted that we have qualified and that we will be there at the World Cup next year. The girls are very happy because that was one of the missions we wanted to fulfil when we left the Caribbean. We’re going to start planning and preparing for New Zealand 2022 but our main focus right now is to get the team back home quickly and safely,” he added.

CWI director of cricket Jimmy Adams also assured that everything was being done to ensure the safety of the team and that the players were well and in good spirits as they wait to confirm their route back to the Caribbean.

“It has been a long evening yesterday (Friday) and long night. The management was up all night as you can imagine. The Sri Lanka team had to do PCR tests yesterday (Friday) and then a rapid test this morning (Saturday morning) before any thought of playing in a competitive fixture against us. There were ongoing discussions last night (Friday night) that were actually superseding what was happening between Sri Lanka and ourselves because there were bigger questions being asked by the organisers about the entire tournament, Adams told the media during a zoom call yesterday.

“The dialogue has been ongoing. Just before this call I came off a call with Courtney and it is not a nice situation but we back our management team down them and we have been on constant contact with them,” he continued.

“We have been getting as much information as quickly as we can about potential routes back home. I also spoke with the Pakistan head coach on the same call with Courtney (and) without a doubt there are concerns. We’re doing the best we can to ensure all the information we have; we are sharing and all the plans we can make we are sharing. As soon as we can get them out of Zimbabwe, we will do that. In terms of the route home, that is still to be decided but we are doing everything we can,” he concluded.

The US government said non-citizens who had travelled to the identified African nations within the last 14 days would not be allowed entry to the country while the EU urged member states to halt air travel from the affected region until there was a “clear understanding” of the potential impact of the new variant.

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