Graeme Smith calls for better cooperation between nations during Covid-19 pandemic
JOHANNESBURG - Graeme Smith has called for better cooperation between countries in order to ensure international cricket can run as smoothly as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cricket South Africa’s Director of Cricket, explained that the sport risks creating insurmountable hurdles if countries can’t agree on the necessary protocols to ensure touring can continue. Cricket SA has already lost important income as a result of England postponing the One-Day leg of their tour earlier this summer citing concerns about the bio secure environment that had been set up in Cape Town, even though none of the touring group tested positive for the virus.
“If member nations don’t support each other and get in and play cricket then the sport is going to find itself in a very challenging space,” Smith said in remarks released by CSA on Friday.
According to Zak Yacoob, the chairman of CSA’s Interim Board, Cricket SA and Cricket Australia have agreed that Australia’s tour to this country will go ahead, unless the pandemic worsens. Talks between officials from the two bodies have been tough with Cricket SA deciding to fly the Proteas Test squad back from Pakistan immediately after the second match in Rawalpindi to ensure the players go into a 14-day quarantine at home before the first game against the Australians.
“We are very excited to be able to host Australia, but there are restrictions and medical protocols that have to be in place in order for that series to happen,” said Smith.
“In working with Cricket Australia, we’ve come to some medical conclusions about how (the bio secure environment) will look. There will be a quarantine period before the Tests and so we had to play two different squads. Normally that is not ideal, but it gives opportunities to players as well.”
Just four players in the current Test squad in Pakistan will stay for the T20 series, with star names like Faf du Plessis, Kagsio Rabada and skipper Quinton de Kock all returning to South Africa to quarantine ahead of Australia’s arrival in the last week of February. If everything goes according to plan, the first Test will start on March 3.
“We would like to get our home summer completed and Australia is a big part of that and we not only want to get it played, we want to compete in that series,” Smith added.
Attempts to protect players and officials inside bio-secure environments will differ from country to country. England pulled off a strict bubble last year enabling it to host a number of series’ but it did so at great expense. Cricket SA is not flush with cash in the same way, but it did host a successful tour by Sri Lanka, and Smith is aware that besides the financial implications there are emotional concerns that need to be monitored as well.
“You have the players moving from one bubble to the next in the space of three months, it’s taxing mentally and we have to be aware of that and think on our feet.”
It was that “bubble fatigue,” that was critical in the England series with their players demanding periods outside of the ‘bio bubble’ to play golf.
At the Irene Lodge where the Sri Lankan and South African teams stayed, there was no golf available but the estate had lots of room for the players to move so that they didn’t feel boxed in as would be the case at a hotel.
“We’ve been working closely with the SA Cricketers Association, given the players questionnaires to answer and kept the lines of communication open with them to understand the challenges of operating in bio bubbles.”
“We want to get a safe environment for them where they feel safe and happy,” said Smith.