Hopes that Australia’s summer Test schedule will not be too severely impacted by Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak have been boosted with discussions under way to allow players to travel from New South Wales to Queensland for the series finale in Brisbane.
Cricket Australia is scrambling to finalise its summer schedule after Sydney’s northern beaches coronavirus cluster threw its initial plans into chaos. The Sydney Cricket Ground is set to host the third Test, starting on 7 January, and Brisbane’s Gabba the fourth, on 15 January, but doubts have emerged over the matches at both grounds.
Either venue potentially stands to lose out on hosting a Test this summer following the latest outbreak of the virus.
Key to settling on a final schedule are Queensland’s border restrictions and whether exemptions will be granted to the playing group, team staff and broadcasters to enter the state from NSW.
The border with NSW was this week closed until 8 January, but the state’s chief health officer indicated on Thursday there could be a degree of flexibility to that arrangement if strict biosecurity rules were adhered to, as has largely been the case in other professional sports played in Queensland this year.
“I know that those cricket matches which have been played in other states, those cricket players have been part of a bubble, and we have had that experience before,” Jeannette Young said. “The processes were used for the NRL, the AFL, other sporting codes.
“So these cricketers have been part of a bubble, they will go into Sydney and continue to be part of a bubble, then if the decision is for the match to go ahead and the current arrangements have not yet been decided, they would remain in a bubble and come into quarantine in Queensland and continue to be part of the bubble.
“But I stress that those discussions are happening now and things could very well change. Nothing has been determined at this stage.
“If all of those things are in place at the moment, if they have been in a bubble in NSW and not come into contact with the general community in Sydney, if they remain in that bubble coming into Brisbane, then I think it could be done. But there is a lot of work to be done before the decision is made.”
It comes after Sydney reportedly made a last-ditch bid to host back-to-back Tests and strip Brisbane of the fourth match of the series against India.
The path of least resistance, given the circumstances, had been to hold consecutive matches at the MCG, leaving Sydney without a Test match this summer. The playing groups are already in biosecure hubs in Victoria and would be allowed to travel direct to Queensland with no current restrictions between those two states in place.
But reports on Thursday claimed there is a push from NSW officials to not only prioritise keeping the New Year’s Test at the SCG, but then also keep the tour in Sydney for the series finale, with Brisbane missing out entirely.
Cricket Australia has been steadfast in its view that the New Year’s Test should remain at the SCG, and there is hope that match can go ahead as initially scheduled.
SCG Trust chairman Tony Shepherd told the Sydney Morning Herald that the influential organisation would be “very, very disappointed” if it lost the match. He added that the famous old ground was ready and able to host another Test if necessary.
There is a sense that Cricket Australia is indebted to NSW after the state came to the rescue earlier in the year by accomodating both Australian and Indian players returning from the IPL and allowing them to train while in quarantine. Queensland had refused a similar request.
The welcome mat rolled out by NSW allowed six limited-over internationals to go ahead in Sydney and Canberra.
“Sydney saved the day, the NSW government supported it, NSW is the cricket centre of Australia in terms of participation, players at the elite end and at community level. We have the biggest Indian diaspora in Australia,” Shepherd said.
Prior to the emergence of the northern beaches cluster, the SCG was set to host a full-capacity crowd, but the outbreak will have an impact on numbers allowed to attend, should one or both games get the green light to go ahead there.
A decision is expected before the Boxing Day Test at the MCG gets under way on Saturday, but any change to the original schedule would also need to be approved by the BBCI, India’s board of control for cricket.
#Australias #summer #Test #schedule #moves #closer #finalised #Covid #uncertainty