The Australia cricket team is in Saint Lucia for what will be their third overseas tour since the beginning of the Covid -19 pandemic.
The 18-player squad, plus travelling reserves Nathan Ellis and Tanveer Sangha, touched down on Monday afternoon following a 16-and-a-half-hour direct charter flight from Brisbane.
Players emerged from the enormous Qantas Dreamliner to crisp, sunny weather at Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) in Vieux Fort before being whisked across to the island’s capital, Castries.
The touring party will observe isolation protocols at their hotel before beginning training later this week ahead of the first of five T20 Internationals at the island’s main cricket ground named after Saint Lucian star, former Hobart Hurricanes player Daren Sammy, from Friday 9th July.
The majority of the squad, plus non-tourists including Test captain Tim Paine, Glenn Maxwell and Kane Richardson, had assembled on the Gold Coast’s Royal Pines resort over the weekend for a planning and strategy camp.
Sydney-based players Sangha, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques and Dan Christian instead had to dial in via teleconference due to New South Wales’ ongoing lockdown, though they were able to get travel exemptions to fly to Queensland on Monday morning and join the charter flight.
The entire T20 series against hosts West Indies will be played in Saint Lucia. The Aussies will play three ODIs in Barbados before, (pending confirmation) another five T20s against Bangladesh in Dhaka in August.
Australia is expected to field a fresh-faced side for the series, with Maxwell, Richardson, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Jhye Richardson and Daniel Sams all missing the tour for various reasons.
The visitors have included three spinners in their squad – Adam Zampa, Mitchell Swepson and Ashton Agar – and Finch has flagged the possibility of playing all three in Saint Lucia.
“Absolutely, we’ll look at all that,” Finch said last week. “Saint Lucia’s had a lot of cricket on it recently.
“If you look at the scores, it’s not a high-scoring ground, it’s generally a bit slower and spins a little bit.
“So we’ll look at those options once we get on the ground there on late Tuesday, and start to get a feel about what that looks like.
“It’s also an opportunity for us to tinker around a little bit, and probably play a few different structures of team that will give us an opportunity to gather some more information leading into the World Cup.”
While the team has not played on the volcanic island for more than nine years, Australian fans will recall Mike Hussey’s famous 24-ball 60 that put Australia into the World T20 final in 2010.
It remains the only time they have made the final of that event, with the Aussies eager to end their T20 World Cup trophy drought when this year’s edition gets underway in October.
“It’d be huge for Australian cricket, with it being the one that’s eluded us for quite a while,” Finch said.
“We’ve been in some really good positions with some really good teams, and we just haven’t quite clicked and got it right at the business end of the T20 World Cup.
“It’s something we’re all dreaming of.”
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Dan Christian, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa. Travelling reserves: Nathan Ellils, Tanveer Sangha.
West Indies T20 squad: Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Kevin Sinclair, Oshane Thomas, and Hayden Walsh Jr
T20 series, all matches at the DSCG. 1st T20: July 9th, 2nd T20: July 11th, 3rd T20: July 13th, 4th T20: July 15th, 5th T20: July 17th. Matches will bowl off from 9.30 a.m. ECT.