“Two-Test match series, to me, is a joke” – Windies legend Sir Curtly Ambrose calls for three-Test series with Aussies

Australia’s Test side is back in the Caribbean next year.

Australia are at risk of another scheduling stalemate when they return to the Caribbean next year despite Sir Curtly Ambrose urging administrators to avoid “joke” two-Test series, like the one that cut short West Indies’ promising visit down under last summer.

While they have now dispersed from the Caribbean after their early exit from the T20 World Cup, the Australians will not wait long to make their return to the region with the Windies to host them in a Test series for the first time in a decade in June-July next year.

It will see breakout pace star Shamar Joseph’s rematch with the batting line-up he decimated at the Gabba in January, when he bowled through a painful foot injury to inspire the Windies to their first win in Australia in 27 years.

That series finished in a frustrating 1-1 draw with no deciding Test and Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley has expressed his strong desire to see future Test contests consist of at least three matches.

The ICC’s Future Tours Program lists a two-Test series as well as three matches of each white-ball format to immediately follow the window for the ICC’s World Test Championship final next June-July.

The possibility of Australia qualifying for that WTC final at Lord’s, for which dates are yet to be confirmed, is a complicating factor in the ability to extend the Caribbean tour for a possible third Test, while the length of the Indian Premier League through March, April and May, and a home white-ball series against South Africa in August (expected to be played in northern Australia) adds to the squeeze.

Ambrose, the legendary paceman who was part of the last West Indian team to beat Australian on their own shores back in 1996-97, put it even more forcefully.

“Two-Test match series, to me, is a joke to be quite frank. Minimum three,” Ambrose told reporters on his home island of Antigua during the World Cup.

“Australia won the first Test, West Indies came back and won the second, and a third Test that would have been massive … That would set up the series perfectly. But it didn’t happen.”

Asked specifically about Australia’s Test series in the Caribbean next year, Ambrose said: “I don’t think two Tests is really appropriate for international cricket.

“Had we had a third Test in Australia that … would have been sold out. Everyone would have loved to see if West Indies could do that again and if Australia could bounce back.”

Despite the sentiments, there appears a strong likelihood both of Australia’s overseas Test bilateral engagements in 2025 will be two-Test series given the squeeze on the international calendar.

A mooted two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in February has little wriggle room to be extended given it comes hot on the heels of Australia’s five-Test home series against India and will be followed by the ICC’s relaunched ODI Champions Trophy.

It is believed the West Indies-Australia series that has been penciled into the ICC’s Future Tours Programme as a two-Test campaign could yet have an extra match added to it.

But the IPL, which features a 10-team, 74-match season, and Australia’s possible defence of their World Test Championship title in the UK, loom as immovable objects in the calendar. Pat Cummins’ men are in prime position to defend the title they won at The Oval last year, sitting in second place on the current standings behind India ahead of this summer’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy blockbuster series.

Australia are also set to host South Africa and India in limited-overs series later in 2025, either side of a three-T20 tour of New Zealand, though none of those series have firm dates yet.

Hockley has admitted it’s a challenge to balance the international schedule.

“The preference is a minimum three-Test series, so we’ll keep advocating and championing that,” Hockley told radio station SEN in January.

“There is work to be done on the FTP, and it’s really cementing the World Test Championship.

“Really advocating for three-Test series as an absolute minimum. And then, as best as we possibly can, making sure that with domestic T20 competitions we minimize the overlap for countries where it is an important source of revenue.”

Ambrose meanwhile is a huge rap for the 24-year-old Joseph, who will be a key figure on the Windies’ three-Test tour of England that begins next month, especially following the revelation key quick Kemar Roach will miss the series due to injury.

Ambrose had briefly mentored Joseph after spotting him bowling in the nets in at a fast-bowling camp in Guyana and has likened him to his former teammate Malcolm Marshall.

“I remember him saying to me, ‘Coach, I want to play international cricket – he was very passionate about it,” said the 60-year-old who took 405 Test wickets at 20.99.

“And I said to him then, ‘You just need to perform in the local competition and then if you’re selected for the Guyana national team, and you perform well, there’s a chance you could play international cricket.

“Before you know it he was in the West Indies Test team doing his thing in Australia.

“He’s very passionate. And what I learnt about him is he’s willing to learn. He’s coachable which is very important. I believe as long as he stays humble he’s going to be okay.

“Maybe my presence maybe give him a little bit more inspiration but I can’t take any credit for anything he did in Australia. I can’t do that. That would be dishonest.

“For us it was great – I’m not really big on stats but … since 1996 we hadn’t won a game in Australia. That’s a long time. And I was still playing then! To me that was shocking, I was like, ‘What?!’

“I’m not big on watching cricket for long periods but I was glued to see how the young man shaped up – and he wasn’t even supposed to go to the ground because of that sore toe.

“I was really happy for him, I messaged him a few times because we talk from time to time, just encouraging him and that sort of stuff. I was really happy for him and West Indies as well, sharing the spoils with Australia.”

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