Khan cautions Paul, Hetmyer over England tour absence

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Former West Indies team manager Omar Khan.

(CMC) – A former manager of the West Indies team has cautioned that all-rounder Keemo Paul and left-handed batsman Shimron Hetmyer may have taken a big risk opting out of next month’s tour of England.

Omar Khan, who is also manager of the Guyana Amazon Warriors franchise, which Paul and Hetmyer represent, said that while he understood the duo’s concerns, they should have been part of the three-match series that will be the first Test played in a “bio-secure” environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) confirmed Wednesday that the two Guyanese, along with Trinidadian Darren Bravo, had declined to be part of the 14-man team chosen to help West Indies retain the Wisden Trophy.

A total of 25 players, including 11 reserves, will fly to England on private charters on June 8 and will live, train and play in a “bio-secure” environment during their seven weeks in England, which includes Test matches beginning on July 8, 16 and 24.

“A situation like this is mentally taxing on the player. This is the first time that a series is being played under the present COVID-19 situation and, hence, the players are not sure how all will pan out,” Khan who managed the West Indies team from 2007 to 2010, told Guardian Media Sports on Thursday.

“I could understand mentally that the players would want to be totally comfortable but, in my personal view, I think Hetmyer and Paul should have gone.”

CWI said it fully respected the decision of those cricketers not to go on the tour, and assured that would not be held against them when consideration is given to future selection.

Khan said while that was comforting, the players who opted out could face another problem.

“Other players have come in to replace them and if they perform and cement a spot, then it will be harder for them to break back into the team,” he cautioned.

However, he added: “They would have had to weigh all those options before making a decision. Once they are comfortable that is important.”

The centrally-contracted Paul, Hetmyer and Bravo, in declining selection, reportedly expressed concerns about their health and the wellbeing of their families, given that more than 281 000 people in the UK had been infected with COVID-19, including almost 40 000 who succumbed to the virus.

According to ESPNcricinfo, CWI chief executive Johnny Grave said 22-year-old Paul had emailed the governing body for cricket in the region, explaining that he was the sole breadwinner for his household and wider family and was “really concerned if something happened to him how his family would cope”.

“He wrote a personal note to us to explain it was with a heavy heart that he had decided not to tour but that he just didn’t feel comfortable going to England. He wrote passionately about how hard a decision it was for him and how much he loves playing for West Indies, but with consultation with his family he doesn’t feel he can leave them and doesn’t want to go on the tour,” Grave told the cricket website.

He added that 23-year-old Hetmyer also “didn’t feel comfortable from a safety point of view, leaving his home, leaving his family and heading over to England”.

“Darren Bravo had concerns about his health and any consequences that it may have on his young family. He also mentioned he made his decision with great remorse as it was always a huge honour for him to play for West Indies. So, yes, perfectly valid reasons and the ones that we fully respect. We were never going to force or try to coerce and we didn’t ask them to reconsider,” the CWI CEO added.

The West Indies squad for the upcoming tour which will be played behind closed doors in three venues, is captained by Jason Holder and includes Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer and Kemar Roach.

The reserves are Sunil Ambris, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Keon Harding, Kyle Mayers, Preston McSween, Marquino Mindley, Shane Moseley, Anderson Phillip, Oshane Thomas, Jomel Warrican.