Aussies Cricket Tour in South Africa Postponed Due to Virus
The cricketing director of the Australian cricket team Graeme Smith has said he is “extremely disappointed” that the tour had to be called off due to renewed concerns about a new strain of COVID spreading through South Africa. The three-test tour was scheduled to take place this March, but due to the imminent health concerns of players, coaching staff, and officials – the matches have been postponed indefinitely.
Whilst the world remains mostly under strict lockdowns, new COVID strains in South Africa and elsewhere have been topics of considerable concern amongst healthcare professionals and government officials. Whilst South Africa fights against a second-wave of infections, Australian cricket CEO Nick Hockley took the executive decision to postpone his team’s tour of the nation, as playing matches in the current climate poses an unnecessary risk to everyone involved. Similarly, India cancelled international cricket for the foreseeable future.
Graeme Smith didn’t hold back when asked how he felt about the 11th-hour decision. As he explained, Cricket Australia had been working tirelessly and in tandem with Cricket South Africa to ensure that all the safety requirements of the tour had been implemented. For the tour to be canceled at the last minute by the Australians has left a deep sense of disappointment for both parties.
Cricket Australia made the announcement publicly on its Twitter page on February 2nd and said that due to the threat to public health it could not in good conscience go ahead with the tour. They acknowledged in the statement that plenty of preparations had been made by both sets of players, but the high-threat level still presides and the safety of the players and staff has to be held as a main priority.
The decision was clearly a difficult one to make for Cricket Australia, but it is clear from the initial reaction that the majority of people agree that this was the correct call. The frustrating thing is though how late the decision was made, after many weeks of preparations the tour was canceled just before it was due to begin.
The Tour Poses an Unacceptable Health Risk
For cricketing purists, this news will be incredibly disappointing. The test match series that was scheduled to take place between South Africa and Australia was one of the most highly anticipated fixtures on the cricketing calendar this year. Without any indication, if the games will be rescheduled or able to happen in the near future, fans, players and staff have all been left bitterly disappointed and upset.
Betting operators too will be feeling the pinch from the canceled set of fixtures. With very little excitement or activity in the elite sports calendar, bookmakers are being forced to innovate and spice up their offerings. In any case, the game will be rescheduled at a time convenient for both teams and when the infection rates have fallen once again to a level that is not a threat to public health.
Before the decision to cancel the tour was made it was very impressive to see the lengths being taken by the host country to guarantee the safety of the visiting Australians. Cricket South Africa had even committed to bringing in a special tracking system to ensure the close and proper tracking of any individual posting a positive COVID result. The visiting players would have also been granted VIP access through the arrival airports to ensure that they could quickly alight onwards to their hotel and limit the amount of time exposed in public areas.
Making the decision was clearly not an easy call, and it wasn’t made before exploring every possibility to bring the tour to fruition. There was a significant amount of work especially on the part of Cricket South Africa that went into organizing the tour, so it is a great shame especially for the host that it will not be able to go ahead.
Announcing the cancellation of the tour at the same time as Cricket Australia, the South African’s did mention that the matches will be replayed at a date convenient for both parties, and hopefully in the not too distant future. The South Africans have already proven that they are capable of hosting a cricket match in these difficult circumstances as they did with Sri Lanka. The bio-secure environment that was established for the test match at Centurion went off without a hitch, and there were no reported breaches of the strict protocols.