Eager to play


Eager to play

Blackwood raring to go if called on for proposed England tour

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, May 31, 2020

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WITH the West Indies Test tour to England appearing likelier by the day, Jamaican batsman Jermaine Blackwood, who topped the runs chart during last season's regional four-day tournament, is eager to fire if given the opportunity.

The tour was originally scheduled to run from May to June but was postponed due to the global spread of the novel coronavirus. In the United Kingdom (UK), the virus — which causes the COVID-19 disease — has reportedly resulted in close to 40,000 deaths.

In a statement on Friday, Cricket West Indies (CWI) approved the rescheduling of the tour, the clearest indication yet that the sport's first-ever biosecure Test series is to proceed, starting in July. Biosecure measures are designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is awaiting final approval from the UK Government, with all three Test matches set to be played behind closed doors.

“I want to go back out and play some cricket, but [only] whenever it's safe to do so,” Blackwood told the Jamaica Observer during a telephone interview.

“I'm hoping that the tour of England will get the go-ahead and I will be selected so I can play some cricket. I'm just eager to get back out on the park and play some cricket,” the 28-year-old free-scoring player said.

Blackwood is a shoo-in for the final 25-man squad for the England series after aggregating 768 runs in the region's domestic championship. The highlight was a first-class career-best 248, and while restraining his instinctively attacking disposition, he was consistent throughout the campaign, averaging 51.20 in 15 innings. His mammoth knock was accompanied by six half-centuries.

The middle-order batsman has played 28 Tests with modest success, averaging 30.26 with a lone century to his name.

Blackwood's last outing was as a concussion substitute for Darren Bravo, who suffered a blow to the head while batting, during the second Test against India at Sabina Park last September. In his only chance to bat, the diminutive right-hander made 38 in the second innings as West Indies slumped to a 257-run defeat.

Outside of that unusual case, his previous Test appearance had been away to Zimbabwe in late 2017.

Blackwood said the Jamaican Government's restrictions — including stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the spread of the virus — have not stopped him from keeping in shape.

“I've been training so I'm feeling good all around, mentally and physically. Not because I haven't been out playing any cricket; I still feel like I've been playing cricket for the last four months,” he explained, while noting that access to the facilities at the residence of countryman and fellow cricketer Andre Russell has proved vital.

“I have to give thanks that I have such a good friend and brother like Andre [Russell] who has a big [home] that has almost everything. So I can do some work in the gym and then I use the [practice] nets and focus on my skills, batting-wise. So that aspect is going good so far,” he told the Observer.

With the easing of restrictions he has also begun training under the supervision of Jamaica Scorpions Head Coach Andre Coley.

“I started to do some fielding work with Andre Coley down by Sabina Park — just one on one. It's a little bit different; he has to wear his mask and we try to stay feet apart from each other at all times. It's a little bit difficult, but it is something that we have to live with until a vaccine [is found]. Right now we just have to work with whatever guidelines we have,” Blackwood said.

West Indies are holders of the Wisden Trophy after defeating England 2-1 in the Caribbean early last year.

If the return tour to England goes ahead as planned, West Indies will leave in early June, and players and staff will be quarantined for two weeks before the opening Test. Old Trafford in Manchester and Ageas Bowl in Southampton, which offer biosecure arrangements, are two likely match venues.

The touring side will travel with as many as 25 players to allow for internal preparation matches and to ensure injury replacements are on site.

Players from both teams will be required to avoid members of the public and to follow physical distancing guidelines while on tour.

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