Johannesburg — Indian Cricket officials continue to await instructions from that country’s government regarding the national men’s cricket team’s tour to South Africa.
While appreciative of assurances regarding safety measures for the tour given by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), a senior official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said the body needed permission from the Indian government before the players embark on the tour, which is due to start in the middle of December.
A number of countries have instituted travel bans against South Africa after the country’s scientists made public the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, Omicron. India has not joined others in limiting travel to or from South Africa. Officials from the BCCI and Cricket SA have been in contact with each other about the tour, which will comprise three Tests, three One-Day Internationals and four T20 Internationals, which will be played in Centurion, Johannesburg and in Cape Town. The new variant has driven a spike in Covid cases in Gauteng.
“Whatever best we can do to not compromise the series we will try and do but if the situation aggravates and if it compromises our players' safety and health, we will see,” the BCCI’s secretary Arun Dhumal told the Press Trust of India news agency. “In the end, whatever is the Government of India advisory, we will abide by that.”
On Tuesday, DIRCO released a statement thanking the Indian government and the BCCI for letting the India A side, which is currently in South Africa, continue with its tour. The SA A and India A team started the second of the three match series in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.
“India’s decision to show solidarity by choosing to continue with the tour of the Indian ‘A’ Team stands in contrast with a number of countries who have decided to close their borders and to restrict travel from Southern African after South Africa announced the detection of the new Omicron variant,” the statement from DIRCO read.
“The South African Government has expressed its appreciation to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for allowing the tour to continue and for not letting travel restrictions negatively impact on international sports.”
“South Africa will take all precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of the Indian teams. A full Bio-secure environment will be established around both the South African and Indian ‘A’ Teams as well as the two National Teams.”
Planes have been chartered to ferry the teams between Gauteng and the Western Cape, once the series, hopefully starts. It is a crucial tour for South African cricket which has had to deal with significant financial blows following England’s withdrawal midway through a limited overs tour last November and the Australian team’s Test series here being indefinitely postponed.
Last weekend, India’s Minister for Youth Affairs and Sport, Anurag Thakur, said the government had to be informed before any Indian sports team left the country’s shores. “Not only the BCCI, but every board should also consult the Indian government before sending the team to a country where a new COVID-19 variant has emerged. It is not right to send the team to a country where there is a threat. If BCCI consults us we will deliberate on that," said Thakur.