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Giving thanks for cricket tour of New Zealand

Saturday, October 17, 2020

AMONG the Asia-Pacific region's more prosperous countries, New Zealand with just five million people has done really well in coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

Up to yesterday, that country, which just held its parliamentary elections (yesterday, Jamaica time), had registered 25 deaths from COVID-19. There was no one being treated for the disease in hospital and there were only 46 active cases.

New Zealand has been able to keep the dangerous, highly contagious respiratory illness under wraps because of prolonged and stringent lockdowns to halt community spread earlier in the year; and by effectively closing its borders to foreigners.

Like much of the rest of the world, New Zealand, pre-COVID-19, had a fast-growing tourism industry which was among its top foreign exchange earners.

But unlike countries like Jamaica, New Zealand's wealth, financial reserves, and a sophisticated, diversified, export-based economy with strong agricultural, agro-processing and manufacturing sectors, gave it the capacity to absorb the economic shock of prolonged lockdowns.

Jamaican consumers of butter and cheese, for example, will be aware that New Zealand is a world leader in the production and export of those processed foods.

Now with the coming of the southern hemisphere summer, the authorities there are preparing to reward their people — who have sacrificed much over the last many months of COVID-19 restrictions — with high-level international sport.

A crowded international cricket schedule for that country in coming months includes short Test-match and Twenty20 tours by West Indies in November and December, subject to the various COVID-19 protocols now the norm for international competition.

Like the men's tour of England in mid-year and the women's T20 tour also to that country last month, this trip to the southern hemisphere is a godsend for resource-strapped West Indies cricket, providing an opportunity for top professionals to earn.

West Indies are defending T20 World Cup champions, having won the title in 2016. Skipper Mr Kieron Pollard and his men will see this as important preparation for the next T20 World Cup scheduled for Australia in 2021. It was postponed this year because of the pandemic.

After securing their first Test match win on English soil in 20 years in July, Caribbean fans are hoping that their eighth-ranked West Indies team, led by Mr Jason Holder, will seriously challenge the powerful New Zealanders, ranked second in the ICC Test rankings. Clearly, that will be no easy task.

We are pleased that Cricket West Indies have abided by their pledge of no hard feelings after Messrs Shimron Hetmyer, Darren Bravo and Keemo Paul made themselves unavailable for the England tour earlier this year, because of the pandemic's threat.

All three are named for the visit to New Zealand, with Messrs Hetmyer and Paul included in both squads.

It may seem a small thing but given the long-running record of 'bad mind' and malice which has haunted West Indies cricket on occasions in the past, this act of good faith by management is worthy of applause.