Cricket: England’s ‘red list’ could deprive Black Caps of top players for June tour

The Black Caps are staring down the barrel of being without four of their best players for the side’s upcoming Test series against England.

On Tuesday morning (NZT), the United Kingdom added India to a “red list” of countries from which most travel to the UK is banned. While elite sportspeople and support staff have an exemption that allows them to travel to the UK from an otherwise banned red-list country, they still require a 10-day stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel upon arrival, with no special dispensation to leave for training or to compete.

That leaves likely test-starters Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner – all currently competing in the Twenty20 Indian Premier League (IPL) – in serous doubt of being able to take the field for the series-opening match at Lord’s on June 2.

New Zealand were already planning to be without any players whose teams reached the IPL knockout stages, but with the group stage ending on 23 May – 10 days before the first Test – this new development would rule them all out, regardless of team success.

Another, more important, fixture that could also be impacted by the red list is the inaugural World Test Championship final between the Black Caps and India, with Indian players currently expected to fly directly from their home base.

However, Black Caps captain Kane Williamson is remaining optimistic about the chances of playing against England and India in June, saying the situation was a fluid one.

“I don’t think we’re guaranteed to miss it. I think it’s a little bit dependent on how things unfold here,” Williamson told Newstalk ZB.

“It doesn’t sit comfortably, but I think in these unique times you sort have to keep an open mind.”

One factor sitting in the favour of the World Test Championship final going ahead is its chosen location at Southampton’s Rose Bowl, a ground and on-site hotel capable of functioning under a fully bio-secure setup.

According to the Guardian, England Cricket Board’s (ECB) director of events Steve Elworthy is currently in talks with the UK government about the potential for the fixture to receive classification as an “event of national significance” that would allow some flexibility over logistics.

An ECB spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are currently discussing with Government the impact of countries being on the ‘red list’. By working collaboratively, we demonstrated how we can stage international cricket safely in the middle of a pandemic and hope to be able to do so again this year.”

The International Cricket Council also released a statement saying it expected the event to go ahead as planned.

However, the England v New Zealand series that begins the tour – first at Lord’s and then Edgbaston – involves teams staying in hotels off-site and could likely lead to players on both sides being ruled out unless additional exemptions are granted.

England players currently competing in the IPL are Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Moeen Ali. The loss of these top players, along with the recent injury to Ben Stokes, would leave the home side scrambling for replacements and facing a similarly-depleted Black Caps team that may need to think about flying in a larger squad as a contingency.

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