West Indies confirm dates for five T20s and three ODIs against Aaron Finch's Australia in July
Australia set for Caribbean return with white-ball tour
The West Indies have announced a whistle-stop schedule for the Australian men's team's first visit to the Caribbean in five years, and just their third overseas tour since the pandemic began.
The Aussies will play eight games in two weeks against the West Indies in St Lucia and Barbados from July 9-24 in what shapes as vital preparation for the T20 World Cup to be played later this year.
The importance of the five T20s against the reigning world champions in that format, all to be played at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia, could be heightened for Australia if a mooted tour of Bangladesh does not go ahead amid the subcontinent's concerns with coronavirus.
The St Lucia ground, which was this week being used as a COVID vaccination centre for the island, is the venue where 11 years ago today Mike Hussey smashed an incredible 60 not out from 24 balls in a 2010 T20 World Cup classic against Pakistan.
Following the T20s, the Aussies head to Barbados where three 50-over games will be played at Kensington Oval. The ODIs, all day-nighters that will start at 4.30am on the Australian east coast, will also form part of the International Cricket Council's ODI Super League that will determine automatic qualification for the 2023 ODI World Cup.
This year's T20 World Cup is slated for October and to be held in India, though there is doubt over that country's ability to host the tournament given their ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Australia is expected to name an extended squad for the Caribbean tour next week.
The appetite of some of Australia's leading lights to spend yet more time in some version of a bio-secure bubble and then face two weeks of quarantine upon their return home remains unclear.
The Federal Government's flight ban from India that expires on Saturday has left the Australians involved in the Indian Premier League in limbo, with reports the Board of Control for Cricket in India is closing on a deal to secure permission to return the Australian contingent from that league this weekend.
All-format stars Pat Cummins, Steve Smith and David Warner are among those waiting to come home from the Maldives after the lucrative T20 tournament they were playing in during their annual leave period was postponed amid a COVID-19 outbreak in several teams.
Australian white-ball players Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa have spent the best part of 10 months in bubbles or away from home, stretching back to last year's limited-overs series in England, followed by home domestic and international fixtures, a T20 series in New Zealand and then the IPL.
Leg-spinner Zampa cited bubble fatigue as a key factor in his decision to leave the IPL early, only days before the tournament was postponed.
The Aussie men have not been to the Caribbean since a 2016 ODI tri-series also involving South Africa, which the Steve Smith-led side won after a 58-run win in the final over West Indies.
That trip was Justin Langer's first as the national head coach, albeit in an interim capacity with the then-Western Australia and Perth Scorchers mentor standing in for Darren Lehmann.
Australia have not played a Test series in the Caribbean since 2015, and are not scheduled to play Test cricket again this year until the home summer, that is expected to begin with a Hobart Test against Afghanistan in late November before a home Ashes series that will begin at the Gabba and is expected to culminate in Perth.
Australia's visit is part of a hectic home season for the West Indies that is bookended by visits from South Africa and Pakistan.
The Proteas will play two Tests in St Lucia in June followed by five T20s in Grenada in what will be their first visit for a bilateral series since 2010.
Pakistan will arrive in Barbados while the Australians are still on the island and will play the first two T20s of a five-match series against the home side after the Aussies depart. The final three T20s will be played in Guyana – giving the West Indies 15 T20 international matches in their home summer in total – before they host Pakistan in back-to-back Test matches at Jamaica's Sabina Park.
The 2021 Caribbean Premier League will follow on almost immediately after the Pakistan tour.
Cricket West Indies CEO Johnny Grave said: "To host three international teams back-to-back in five territories is unprecedented, and putting these fixtures together was an enormous Covid-related logistical challenge."
All players, support staff and match officials will stay, train and play in a bio-secure environment, with regular COVID-19 testing, while a decision on whether fans will be allowed to attend is yet to be made.
Qantas Tour of the West Indies 2021
First T20: July 9, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 10, 9.30am AEST)
Second T20: July 10, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 11 9.30am AEST)
Third T20: July 12, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 13, 9.30am AEST)
Fourth T20: July 14, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 15, 9.30am AEST)
Fifth T20: July 16, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 17, 9.30am AEST)
First ODI: July 20, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 21, 4.30am AEST)
Second ODI: July 22, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 23, 4.30am AEST)
Third ODI: July 24, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 25, 4.30am AEST)