FAWAD Ahmed has endured significant hardship in his unconventional cricket career, but even the veteran leg-spinner admits the current lot of a global T20 gun-for-hire is not for the faint-hearted.
Fawad is one of six Australians currently quarantined in Trinidad hotel rooms for seven days, where they are only permitted to see the person who brings them their meals, fulfilling strict quarantine requirements ahead of the start of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) later this month.
It will be the first major domestic T20 tournament to be staged since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the sporting world in March.
“There’s a 28-day quarantine (in total, including on return to Australia) and the tournament lasts only 22 days,” Fawad told cricket.com.au. “But I’m playing cricket and that’s what I love.”
Getting players and officials from all over the globe to Trinidad, which will host the entire tournament at two venues, has been an enormous logistical effort given Trinidad and Tobago’s borders remain closed indefinitely.
Fawad travelled through five countries over the course of seven days before finally checking into his Trinidad hotel room on Sunday evening.
The wrist-spinner was supposed to fly with fellow Australian Simon Helmot, the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots coach, but Helmot’s COVID-19 test came back positive just hours before he was set to depart Melbourne.
While Helmot told cricket.com.au yesterday that he has since returned a negative test, he will not make it to Trinidad given the strict quarantine bubble requirements and he remains in isolation with his family in Victoria.
Instead, Fawad made the trip alone on half-empty planes and through deserted airports, flying through Doha, New York (where a connecting flight to Barbados was cancelled), St Lucia (where he stayed for three nights), and then finally via Barbados to get to Trinidad.
T20 freelancers Chris Lynn, Ben Dunk and Chris Green as well as Guyana Amazon Warriors coach Johan Botha (the former South Africa captain who has since become an Australian resident) and the CPL’s director of cricket Tom Moody are the other Australians on the island for the tournament.
Marcus Stoinis has pulled out despite being drafted by the Barbados Tridents last month. Stoinis has since been named in a preliminary 26-man Australian limited-overs squad for the proposed tour of the United Kingdom, which will overlap with the CPL if it goes ahead.
Fawad, who successfully sought asylum in Australia after fleeing Pakistan a decade ago, has had a unique look at the effect the global health crisis has had on the game.
The 38-year-old featured in the last domestic T20 to be played (a Pakistan Super League game in Karachi on March 15) before the pandemic put a complete stop to major cricket competitions.
And if he makes the Trinbago Knight Riders’ XI for the CPL opener against Guyana on August 18, he will have then played in the first major domestic T20 staged since.
He, along with all the other international arrivals, is now spending seven days in complete isolation before a further seven days of quarantine with access to some facilities.
While it is hardly the ideal preparation for a major competition, Fawad is eager for cricket to resume.
“We are going to be rusty, hopefully there are no injuries,” he said. “I’ve been working hard for the last month or so but then I’m doing nothing for 10 or 12 days, and then you go straight into the tournament.
“This is a pandemic so we are all in the same boat, regardless of where you are from … we have all been affected in some way. It’s a tough decision (to travel) but it’s a blessing in disguise.
“You’re playing cricket in a pandemic. I know you have to take risks – long flights, quarantine on both sides – but it’s especially good for the West Indies Cricket Board (CWI), they are really struggling.
“The viewership for the CPL is very high, especially in India. We might be able to watch it back in Australia, Pakistan, the USA, all over the West Indies.”
Stoinis, meanwhile, said his selection in Australia’s extended squad for the mooted England tour, as well as the potential logistical hurdles, factored into his decision to pull the pin on the CPL.
“I was initially booked in to play. At that stage I had been feeling guilty that I wasn’t playing,” Stoinis told cricket.com.au. “So I thought whatever tournament is coming up, ‘Let’s get back into it’.
“I felt like I should be playing, I felt like I was being lazy by not testing myself and not getting out there.
“I probably rushed into that a little bit; so since then I withdrew, and they (Barbados Tridents) were very understanding about all that.” (Cricket.com.au)