Getting set for Sri Lanka

Getting set for Sri Lanka

Saturday, February 20, 2021

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THEIR pleasing 2-0 Test series s weep of Bangladesh now in the rear-view mirror, the West Indies cricket team is now gearing up for Sri Lanka's visit to the Caribbean, March 3 to April 2.

Of course, not everything went well for the West Indies in Bangladesh. In fact, the tour started disastrously with heavy losses in all three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) as the squad, weakened by the absence of leading players, proved no match for their experienced hosts.

There should be no such excuse this time around, with top players all expected to be available for T20s, ODIs and two Test matches — all to be played in Antigua because of the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus.

Also, the Caribbean's top players are all involved in the Super50 limited overs tournament now taking place in Antigua under what has become 'new normal' biosecure arrangements dictated by COVID-19 protocols.

After their ODI losses to Bangladesh, West Indies limited overs Captain Mr Kieron Pollard and his men will be particularly keen to do well in that format against Sri Lanka in order to start the push towards automatic qualification for the 2023 International Cricket Council's ODI World Cup.

As West Indies Coach Mr Phil Simmons has made abundantly clear, there must not be a repeat of three years ago when West Indies suffered the ignominy of failing to qualify automatically for the World Cup, eventually reaching the tournament after placing second behind Afghanistan from a group of 'lesser' teams.

Beyond on-the-field play, there will obviously be considerable focus on arrangements to keep all participants safe during the Sri Lanka tour, which will take place without spectators.

We are told that plans to include St Lucia on the tour itinerary had to be abandoned since the Sri Lankans will arrive in the Caribbean later than originally planned due to their own challenges in dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, and also because of the need for the tour to end before the start of the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 tournament in April.

As it stands, the Coolidge Cricket Ground, once owned by jailed banker Mr Allen Stanford but which is now controlled jointly by Cricket West Indies and the Antigua and Barbuda Government, will stage its first-ever men's internationals when it hosts all three T20 Internationals.

All Tests and ODIs will be played at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, which was built for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

The current biosecure arrangements for teams in the Super50 tournament should provide an excellent rehearsal opportunity for organisers ahead of the Sri Lankan tour.

And while we all hope and pray that the situation in relation to COVID-19 will be much improved by mid-year, Cricket West Indies will also be crossing t's and dotting i's with a view to tours of the Caribbean in quick succession by Pakistan, South Africa, and Australia after the IPL comes to a close in early June.

As this newspaper understands it, if all goes well, Jamaica is due to host a West Indies vs South Africa Test match at Sabina Park in June as well as a four-day preparatory game for South Africa at Trelawny Stadium. We keep our fingers crossed.

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