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Venezuela Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.

Cricket West Indies president, Ricky Skerritt, has ruled out sending a second-string team to England if the region’s leading Test players are hesitant to tour because of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic fears.

But with discussions over how and when the rescheduled series can be staged still “taking place on both sides of the Atlantic”, Skerritt said speculation over player availability was misplaced.

West Indies were scheduled to tour England for three Tests next month but the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic forced a postponement. West Indies will field a strong team if series goes ahead.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said it hoped to press ahead with the tour between July and September, and recent media reports have touted July as the date identified by administrators to host the series.

“We don’t have any benefit to gain by sending a weakened team to the UK,” Skerritt told i95FM Sports in a wide-ranging interview on Thursday.

“However, if the majority of our decision-makers are in compliance or in agreement with what the ECB is proposing and if all concerned come to an understanding that this is the best that we can do and this is what we want to do, and if one or two players decide this is too onerous for them, then that is their prerogative.

“We’re not going to force anybody to go anywhere to play cricket if they don’t want to play. Fortunately, we don’t expect that. I don’t see any reason to believe that anybody will be less safe in the UK than they will be at home under the circumstances.”

The United Kingdom has been one of the hardest-hit regions by the pandemic, with 223 000 confirmed infections and 32 000 deaths. As a result, the ECB postponed the start of its domestic itinerary until May 28.

West Indies were due to four between June 4-29 with Tests carded for the Oval, Birmingham and historic Lord’s in London.

Under the new proposals, the series would instead utilise “bio-secure” venues at Manchester, Southampton and Leeds which would also allow for strict quarantine and social distancing protocols to be observed.

However, Skerritt said while CWI remained open to having the tour players, the burden to come up with workable solutions rested with the ECB.

“This is a couple of months down the road … we have a date somewhere in July which is a proposed date for the tour to begin,” Skerritt said.

“It’s a planning process that’s taking place on both sides of the Atlantic but especially in the ECB. It’s the ECB’s tour, their home series and the onus is on them to invite us and then say how, when, where and we’re not at that point yet.”

(CMC)