International cricket set to return to the Caribbean next year, says CWI President

Ricky Skerritt

Cricket West Indies (CWI)  president, Ricky Skerritt, says international cricket could return to the Caribbean as soon as the first quarter of next year but the challenge remains the creation of safe bio-secure “bubbles” at Caribbean venues.

He revealed that CWI had only  recently produced a draft schedule for 2021 for board approval and were still in the stages of finalising venues and other logistical details, especially in light of the new COVID-19 pandemic environment.

However, he confirmed Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia were all expected to tour the region, the series spread over the first half of the year.

Skerritt also said the resumption of regional domestic cricket would start with the Super50 limited-overs tournament which was being pencilled in for January-February of next year.

“The first regional cricket we’re proposing is the Super50 at the end of January next year,” Skerritt told SportsMax TV.

“We’re not hosting any international cricket before Sri Lanka which will be around February.

“We go to Bangladesh in January/February and then we have three teams coming spread more towards the summer rather than the early part of the year – Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia.”

CWI has not staged an international home series since last January when Ireland toured for three One-Day Internationals and T20 Internationals.

In fact, the year was expected to be a busy one but the home itinerary was cancelled following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa Women had been scheduled to play a five-match ODI series in Jamaica and Trinidad last May/June while South Africa A had been carded for five one-dayers and three four-day “Tests” in Antigua and Barbados last June/July.

The senior men’s tours were also scrapped, New Zealand having been expected to play three ODIs and T20s in Antigua, Dominica and Guyana last July and South Africa down to play two Tests and five T20s in Trinidad, St Lucia, Jamaica and the United States in July/August.

West Indies’ historic three-Test tour of England established a template for the safe resumption of cricket, however, and since then England have hosted a couple of home tours while the Caribbean Premier League was successfully staged in Trinidad last August/September.

Skerritt said issues of regional air travel and establishing and implementing safe protocols, first needed to be addressed before tours could be staged.

“Obviously the problem is where is [best] suited to host [these tours], where can we create the protocols including the bio-secure bubble so a number of options have to be looked at,” he explained.

“In terms of regional air transport and the ability to move players around and deal with the restrictions, that is not something we can look towards at least until towards the end of the first quarter next year.”

The cancellation of the 2020 itinerary has impacted CWI revenues significantly, forcing the Antigua-based governing body to make reductions in their expenditure.

Last May, CWI announced a “temporary” 50 per cent cut in all salaries and funding of cricket across the region, referencing the “debilitating economic challenges which have resulted from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”, as the rationale for the move.