If it's Thursday it must be Guyana: West Indies plan for mammoth 22-match summer

West Indies have a busy 2021 in the lead up to the defence of their WT20 title

Hendo

The West Indies face a huge logistical challenge after announcing they will stage a series of Tests and white-ball matches – including 15 T20Is in the lead-up to the defence of their World T20 title in the autumn – which will keep them occupied for much of the English summer.

They will host South Africa for two Tests and five T20Is, Australia for three ODIs and five T20Is, and Pakistan for five T20Is and two Tests, with matches being held variously in St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana.

The second of the 22 matches, the second Test against South Africa, will clash with the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand in England from June 18-22.

The Cricket West Indies chief executive 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.

"We must thank the visiting teams for agreeing to travel at this challenging period for world cricket and we are especially grateful to our regional governments who are playing such a vital role to ensure that international cricket can be hosted safely, while providing entertainment for our loyal fans and income for our cricketers and cricket communities."

Covid protocols will be in place and it has yet to be determined whether any spectators will be allowed into grounds at any point.

The international extravaganza is a further boost to the region after the national side jumped two places in the Test rankings after impressive performances in Bangladesh and at home to Sri Lanka. They beat Bangladesh 2-0 with a much changed line-up as fringe and forgotten players made their mark in the absence of those who opted not to tour because of the pandemic, and drew both games against Sri Lanka though will probably think they had slightly the better of the matches.

Kraigg Brathwaite's impressive leadership as interim captain in Bangladesh earned him the job full-time ahead of the Sri Lanka tour.

Brathwaite, who is at present opening the batting during a spell in the county championship with Gloucestershire, spoke of his delight after learning that the national team had risen to sixth in the Test rankings – above South Africa and Sri Lanka – saying: "I'm very proud. I think this is just the beginning of good things to come. As a group it shows that we can climb up the ladder and it's just important for us to work hard and keep the belief and attitude to doing things right. [If] we do the small things right and have the right attitude, the sky's the limit."

Much as it pleases the soul to witness the West Indies looking up rather than beneath them and finding very little, many will regard Brathwaite's rather hyperbolic final statement as the result of minimal success going to the head after a long period in the doldrums.

Curtly Ambrose, the great fast bowler from Antigua, produced perhaps a more sober assessment earlier in the week. The 57-year-old, who took 405 Test wickets in 98 Tests between 1988 and 2000 as a 25-year period of West Indies dominance came to an end, said: "It's going to be difficult to find another Viv Richards or a [Desmond] Haynes and [Gordon] Greenidge, a Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, you know, a Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts – the list goes on and on.

"This is no disrespect to the players we have now because we have a couple of guys who have some quality in them and can become great, but what we have to understand is that I don't think we will ever see those great, exceptional glory days again.

Yes, we can be competitive and climb up the ICC rankings and be a force to be reckoned with again, but those glory days, I don't think we will see them again."

Schedule

Tests: v SA June 10-14, June 18-22, St Lucia; v Pak Aug 12-16, Aug 20-24, Jamaica

ODIs v Aus July 20, 22, 24, Barbados

T20Is v SA June 26, 27, 29, July 1, 3, Grenada; v Aus July 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, St Lucia; v Pak Jul 27, 28, 31, Aug 1, 3 (first two Barbados, remaining three Guyana)