A cricketing getaway: Vincy Premier League to roll on in the Caribbean
Written by Sandip G
| New Delhi |

Published: May 21, 2020 11:37:00 pm

The Arnos Vale Sporting Complex that hugs the Caribbean Sea. (Source: Special Arrangement)

For the finest a part of the final three days at the nets, former West Indies fast Nixon McLean has been attempting to kick an previous behavior: rubbing the cricket ball with saliva. “You’ve done this all your life, each time you have the ball in your hand. It’s a habit. So the hand goes automatically towards the tongue when you get the ball in your hand,” he admits.

It’s a behavior most cricketers — the bowlers and ball-shining designates particularly — have to ditch after the ICC prohibited the software of saliva to preserve the ball in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not simply this observe, McLean and Co have been unlearning a slew of different previous habits and etiquettes too, like handshakes, hugs and high-fives, and internalising information ones like sustaining social distance when celebrating, washing arms with sanitisers ever so usually and never borrowing teammates’ bats or gloves.

“It’s kind of strange, you get a wicket and run immediately to your teammates. It’s instinct. But all that is not possible. But at least cricket is back,” says McLean, coach of Botanic Gardens Rangers, considered one of the six franchises in the Vincy Premier League, a T10 event that may roll on for 10 days from Friday in the tiny and picturesque East Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The league, if one discounts the Vanuatu Premier League, is the solely occasion of aggressive cricket since the pandemic outbreak that suspended most sporting actions in the world. Understandably, McLean is worked up: “The cricket world will be tuning into us. So, we are naturally excited. The little island will be in the limelight for once.”

SVG, or the “small island” as they name it in the Caribbean, is a necklace of 32 islands, of which solely 9 are inhabited with 4 of the 9 being personal resorts, having a complete space of 369 sq. kilometre and inhabitants of 110,000. Like most East Caribbean islands, the COVID-19 devastation has been nominal right here. Till date, solely 18 individuals have been contaminated, of which 14 have recovered.

It has been a cricketing outlier too — primarily a limited-overs hang-out – with the Arnos Vale Sporting Complex not internet hosting any worldwide fixture since a Test towards Bangladesh in 2014. International cricketers too have sprung sparsely — solely 9 from the island have performed Test cricket for the West Indies. They don’t have a workforce in the Caribbean Premier League both.

“But the stadium is one of the most beautiful in the world. It’s so close to the Caribbean Sea and I remember people seeing (Brian) Lara hitting a few into the sea. The atmosphere is usually great, a lot of music and drums in the stands,” McLean says.

Kishore Wallace (R), the president of the native cricket affiliation, throughout the VPL draft public sale. (Source: Special Arrangement)

Whether the stands will sway to soca and reggae is uncertain as the timing of the VPL is odd — the matches (30 in 10 days) start at 8.30 in the morning, catering to Asian viewers greater than the locals. Besides, the crowd is regulated too. “We could not obviously deny crowd from entering the stadium as there is no lockdown or other prohibitions in our country. So, we kind of reduced the number of tickets and instructed strict social-distancing practices while watching the game. Every spectator will be screened and their temperature measured. Also, because the matches are in the morning, we don’t expect too much of a crowd,” says Kishore Shallow, president of the native cricket affiliation.

But a sparse crowd is best than no crowd, sighs McLean. “It will be quite bizarre to play in an empty stadium. Even domestic matches here get a decent turnout. The other day, I watched a Bundesliga match and felt quite odd. We can’t imagine that. So, a bit of a crowd, seeing people in the stands, it’s so heart-warming. And expect a lot of noise and cheering,” he says.

READ | No to saliva, yes to sweat: ICC and its match-ball rules

While the beach-hugging stadium shouldn’t be a bio-secure bubble ­not like Ageas Bowl or Old Trafford in England — the organisers are conforming to most security protocols. Like buses ferrying gamers from their homes to the stadium and again — it helps that the majority of the 80-odd gamers, officers and workers stay on the island — the gamers could have to put on masks all the time besides when they’re on the floor and could have to maintain sanitising their arms. “Every day, there will be a temperature check before the match and after it. Players and the support staff will be closely monitored for symptoms, if any. As most of them have not travelled outside the country in a fair while, they don’t need to be quarantined. Overall, we are following standard health procedures, and there will be a large medical team overseeing them, in case something goes amiss. If it’s a success, the world will appreciate us,” says Shallow.

It can be an enormous commercial for native expertise, as Vincentian gamers comprise the total league. The massive attracts are clearly capped Windies gamers like exuberant opening batsman Sunil Ambris, pacer Kesrick Williams (he of the Virat Kohli fame), up-and-coming left-arm seamer Obey McCoy and highly-raved batsman Gidron Pope. “I tell some of the youngsters in the team, the world is watching, show them your talent. There are a lot of promising players around, and it will be a great opportunity for them,” says McLean, who’s the coach of the nation’s workforce too.

But earlier than they begin placing their expertise on show, they want to unlearn just a few previous habits and internalise new ones.

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