Sunday, 15 March 2020

CORONAVIRUS : ENGLISH CRICKET SIDES CUT SHORT ZIM VISIT


THE coronavirus pandemic which is wreaking havoc across the sporting world has forced visiting English county cricket sides Derbyshire and Durham to cut short their historic tour of Zimbabwe.

Derbyshire, who arrived in the country last week, are set to fly back to England today after spending just seven days of a scheduled three-week pre-season training tour.

The decision was taken at the weekend after the side had played and won their opening T20 game against the Zimbabwe Select XI.

Durham, who also arrived last week, were set to play two three-day games against the Zimbabwe Cricket Chairman’s XI starting tomorrow.

But as the coronavirus crisis escalated in the UK, the British government decided to suspend indefinitely all sporting activities and restrict movements, while the England and Wales Cricket Board had to ask the England cricket team to return home from their tour of Sri Lanka last week.

With uncertainty around potential travel disruption and in line with the advice they received from their government and governing body, Derbyshire and Durham decided to prematurely conclude their Zimbabwe tour as a precautionary measure.

No cases of coronavirus have been detected in Zimbabwe since the disease started spreading across the world late last year. 

“Derbyshire County Cricket Club can confirm that the club’s pre-season tour to Zimbabwe will be concluded early and all players and staff will begin their journey back to the UK on Monday (today),” said a statement from the club.

“The club has been in constant contact with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and has received a great deal of support from the local authorities in Zimbabwe as the global COVID-19 situation develops.

“While no member of the touring group has shown any symptoms related to COVID-19, the health and safety of our players and staff remains of paramount importance and therefore the decision has been made to bring the group home at the earliest available opportunity.

“Members of the playing staff met with coaches and the off-field team earlier this morning and, with uncertainty around potential travel disruption, the decision was made to take every necessary precaution in-line with government and governing body advice.

“The squad fulfilled its Twenty20 fixture against a Zimbabwe Select XI at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo, on Saturday 14 March, before preparing to return to the UK.

“The club will closely monitor the developing situation and continue to follow government guidelines in relation to all employees and visitors to The Pattonair County Ground.” 

Derbyshire arrived in Zimbabwe last week and were scheduled to play six games across all formats before returning home for the new season.

All games were scheduled to take place in Bulawayo at Queens Sports Club. The touring squad also managed to visit the majestic Victoria Falls last week before they were hosted by the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melanie Robinson. The tour was engineered by former Zimbabwe captain and coach Dave Houghton, who is now working for the county side as Head of Cricket.

Houghton said the team enjoyed the few days they spent in Zimbabwe and were saddened to leave earlier than scheduled.

“While the decision to return was not an easy one to make, it is the correct one for all players and everyone associated with the club currently in Zimbabwe.

“I would like to thank Zimbabwe Cricket for their hospitality and the local authorities for their guidance during the last few days.

“We will continue our pre-season preparations back in Derby to give the squad the best possible opportunity to be match-ready for the coming season,” said Houghton.

Zimbabwe Cricket acting managing director Givemore Makoni said it was unfortunate the tours ended prematurely.

“It is regrettable that the county teams have been forced to cut short their Zimbabwe tour as a precautionary move, but it is totally understandable as the clubs are concerned, like all of us would be, about the worsening COVID-19 situation back in their country and elsewhere in the world. 

“Nevertheless, we would like to thank both counties for committing to the tour which we have no doubt would have been memorable and a massive boost for our game had it not been discontinued. We hope to host them again in the near future.” Herald

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