Jason Holder, West Indies' captain, says that his team must prepare to embrace the "new normal" after touching down in England to embark on a historic Test series, but admits that the shift in global narrative, from the Covid-19 pandemic to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, could help to galvanise his squad in such extraordinary circumstances.
Speaking after West Indies' arrival at Emirates Old Trafford, where the squad will train in isolation for the next three weeks before decamping to Southampton for the first Test on July 8, Holder acknowledged that he and his team-mates felt "pretty safe" after a smooth transfer from Manchester Airport on Tuesday morning, adding that he was relishing the opportunity to get back to playing cricket after months of being "sat at home doing nothing".
However, the tour's status as a global event has escalated in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in the USA, and surge of protests in support of the BLM movement, and at Holder's arrival press conference, the lines of questioning veered between provisions for playing cricket in the midst of a pandemic, and responses to issues of racism in cricket, including those voiced this week by West Indies' former captain, Daren Sammy.
"It's not going to be a normal bilateral series here in England," said Holder. "But at the end of the day this is where we are with the state of world cricket - the state of the world, per se. No doubt it will be different. But we just have to get on with it and try to make the most of the circumstances in these trying times."
West Indies arrive in England as holders of the Wisden Trophy, after a thrilling 2-1 series win in the Caribbean last year, in which Holder himself excelled with a double-century in Barbados. And though he insisted that England would be favourites this time around, he acknowledged that the challenge of beating the hosts in their own conditions, and at this moment in time, might provide "extra motivation".
"West Indians are fuelled and motivated in different ways," said Holder. "In previous series, particularly against England, people have said things prior to the series beginning, and that has fuelled a lot of things within us as West Indians.
"Who knows, this could be something serious we could build on and we could get some real positive energy through the group. Only after we sit down and discuss and get a common sense of where everybody's mind is at, will we then formulate our plans.
When asked if West Indies would join the BLM protests during the Tests, perhaps by taking a knee in the manner of the NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Holder insisted that he could not speak on behalf of his team-mates until they had decided as a squad how to respond.
"As a group we have to sit down and have our discussions," Holder said. "I don't want to speak out of context or on behalf of other players. We have different races within our group too. It is a sensitive time where we've got to be mindful of everything."
"[Racism] is a crime throughout the entire world and something that will probably be an ongoing discussion way past our lifetimes," he added. "I think the greater message that could be brought from the entire experience is unity. I think regardless of race, your kind, religion, this is a situation for all of us to unite as one.
"What has happened recently around the world has impacted the world and the response from people around the world has been tremendous. At the end of the day, you must acknowledge it and protesting or standing up for what you believe is seen as noble and courageous and something I myself would never sit and disapprove of.
"For me, the greatest thing at the end of the day is unity. We must all come together, there must be equality across the world. It could be a massive ongoing debate but equality and unity is the main thing I would pick up from this.
"We had a brief discussion around it earlier and a lot of things around it come from education as well so I think it's a perfect time for people to educate themselves about what goes on in other peoples' experiences of the world. Only then can you have a better sense of what is going on around you. To be honest, a lot of people live and not know exactly what goes on around them and this is the perfect time to educate yourselves around it and make a change."
Holder added that he had not personally experienced racist abuse in cricket, but acknowledged recent incidents involving Moeen Ali - who was labelled "Osama" by an Australian fielder during the 2015 Ashes - and Jofra Archer, who called out a spectator at Mount Maunganui during last winter's tour of New Zealand, as well as the case of his former team-mate Sammy, who was dismayed to discover he had been labelled with a racist nickname during his time at Sunrisers Hyderabad.
"I would be foolish to sit here and say that racism is not prevalent in our sport," Holder said. "I haven't followed all of what Sammy has said but in terms of racism in general it is definitely all around us. For me the only solution is finding unity and equality in all races.
"I just want equality to excel - to get everyone on the same page. So we can have less fighting, less killing, less adversity in society. For me that is the main message I would like to contribute."