Blow to SA cricket as Aussies postpone tour due to pandemic
Decision was influenced largely by the Covid-19 crisis in SA, says interim CEO Nick Hockley
Cricket SA suffered a major blow on Tuesday when Australia postponed its inbound tour due to rising coronavirus infections in the country.
Cricket Australia (CA) interim CEO Nick Hockley said the decision was not taken lightly and it was largely influenced by the Covid-19 situation in SA.
“Due to the public health situation in SA‚ which includes a second wave and new variant of the virus‚ and after extensive due diligence with medical experts‚ it has become clear that travelling from Australia to SA at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players‚ support staff and the community‚” said Hockley.
“We acknowledge the significant amount of work by Cricket SA in planning for the tour‚ during which we made it clear that Cricket Australia was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen.”
Out of a population of 60-million‚ SA had 1.46-million cases by February 2 with 1.31-million having recovered while 44‚400 people have died. Australia, with a population of just more than 25-million people, have had 28,818 cases, 25,486 recoveries and 909 deaths.
A charter flight carrying the Australia cricket team was expected to land in Johannesburg or Cape Town for a three-match Test series in March and April.
However‚ SA’s Covid-19 second wave has now alarmed the Australians.
“This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed‚ especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time‚ our valued relationships with Cricket SA‚ and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.
“However‚ we have been consistent since the start of the pandemic that the health and safety of our people is always our number one priority and unfortunately‚ despite the best efforts to a biosecurity plan‚ the risks are simply too great at this time‚” said Hockley.
The money-spinning tour came under threat recently after it became apparent that the Australians had second thoughts after Cricket SA’s bio-bubble integrity and security was breached during the tour by England.
The breach‚ which led to positive cases of Covid-19 from both camps and resulted in the cancellation of the ODI home series against England‚ has now seemingly swayed the Australians to change their minds.
“As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is‚ especially for [coach] Justin [Lander]‚ [captain] Tim [Paine] and the team‚ we have a duty to take care of our people and their health and safety can’t be compromised.
“We look forward to playing the series against SA at a date to be confirmed in due course‚” Hockley concluded.
Hockley and CA’s views are in sharp contract with those made by erstwhile Cricket SA interim board chairperson and retired judge Zak Yacoob‚ who said during a media briefing two weeks ago that he was confident Australia’s tour would go ahead. He did‚ however‚ caution at the time that the unpredictability of the virus could yet cause plans to change.
“I had a chat with the chair of Cricket Australia [Earl Eddings] about a week ago and we agree that the tour is going to go ahead‚” Yacoob said via a virtual media conference on January 21.
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