Lifestyle changes make England tour mentally tougher, says Reifer
By Akeem Greene
West Indies Test squad and their management staff are expected to depart the Caribbean on Monday (June 8) for England, one month ahead of the first of three Tests for the Wisden Trophy on July 8.
For the entire duration of the tour, the entire group will have to remain in bio-secure hotels and training facilities.
According to ESPNcricinfo, the West Indies squad will arrive in the United Kingdom on June 9, when they will travel to Emirates Old Trafford for a three-week period of quarantine and training. They will then travel to the Ageas Bowl ahead for the final stages of preparation before the first Test.
The enforced measures effectively put a damper on any of the normal social life activities after training or matches, which usually aids in a player being able to mentally switch off from the pressures of the sport.
“Mentally it will be tougher because normally you could go out, watch movies and do different stuff…now in the bio-secure environment you can’t leave at all nor you can’t visit or let any family friends come to see you,” all-rounder Raymon Reifer related to News Room Sport in a recent interview.
The Barbados-born, who is the lone Guyana Jaguars player part of the 25 selected for the tour, further felt the series plays a big role in the small steps to return to normalcy.
“It will have a really big impact in getting international sport playing again and there will be some very big changes and it is about adapting to that to be as safe as possible.”
The man from the parish of St. Lucy indicated he had to make a tough decision with his family whether to tour. Three high profile players- Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul- had opted not to tour due to safety concerns.
According to the World Health Organisation, as of June 7, the United Kingdom had 284, 872 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus – the second most in Europe.
“It was a decision I had to sleep on it, discuss it with my family, my wife and my mom; discuss it in terms of the dangers, trying to find out as much information about how secure is the environment and all of these came in to help make my decision,” the 29-year-old revealed.
Shining the ball
The International Cricket Council (ICC) implemented new guidelines and Reifer will also have to adapt to changes on the field, especially the deterrence on the use of saliva on the ball, a common practice in the sport for ages.
Regarding the elevated risk of the transmission of the virus through saliva, and the ICC Cricket Committee unanimously agreed to recommend that the use of saliva to polish the ball be prohibited.
The Committee also noted the medical advice that it is highly unlikely that the virus can be transmitted through sweat and saw no need to prohibit the use of sweat to polish the ball whilst recommending that enhanced hygiene measures are implemented on and around the playing field.
“I actually started to go down at the [Kensington] Oval and try to work out different ways to still get the ball to swing and still be able to be as effective and what I found so far there is probably going to be a lot more reverse swing than usual because you are trying to dry shine the ball and not use saliva or sweat.”
He added, “Just trying to keep one side dry as possible helped me to get a bit more reverse swing.”
Holistically, the left-arm seamer felt the new rules are a bit disadvantageous to bowlers, but it is about them trying to find ways to still be effective.
“I don’t think it is a case where it will help the bowlers more. Obviously due to the whole situation everyone has to adjust and try to make the best…putting saliva helps you to shine the ball properly and get that bit of sheen, even if you are just looking to get one side as heavy as possible…but in a case like this the bowlers are probably at a disadvantage because of the pandemic, but it is just for bowlers to find other ways to get the job done.”
Cementing a spot
Reifer, whose exploits for Jaguars piloted him into the International area where he has played one Test and two One-Day Internationals, said he just wants to give his best shot after years of hard work.
“Since I played in 2017, I have not played any more Test cricket and over the years (and) I have been able to understand what international cricket is about and things I needed to work on in order to be successful…knowing there is a lot of competition around which is healthy, it is for me to grab that opportunity when I get a chance.”
Though history is not on the side of West Indies, with it being 32 years since they won a Test series in England, Reifer felt the ‘Headingly miracle’, where West Indies managed to win a Test but lost the series 1-2 in 2017, is still great inspiration.
The all-rounder is one of nine players in the current 14-man squad who toured in 2017; Shannon Gabriel was also present, but he is on the 11-man reserve list this time around.
It is understood West Indies are due to play two practice matches involving the 25 players, but the dates have not been finalised yet by organisers at Old Trafford.