Johannesburg — Cricket South Africa continues to play a waiting game with its Indian counterpart, the BCCI, over India’s tour to the country, with Virat Kohli’s men scheduled to arrive in South Africa next Friday.
Cricket SA has had daily engagements with the Board of Control for Cricket in India since last Friday as it awaits word on the critical tour, which will comprise three Tests, three One-Day Internationals and four T20 matches. The first Test is scheduled to start at the Wanderers on December 17.
Cricket SA’s acting CEO, Pholetsi Moseki described the wait as a “fluid situation”. “Making sure the tour goes on is what concerns us here and now,” he said.
He had noted reports in India, that the BCCI had written to CSA about delaying the start of the tour by one week and reducing the number of Tests matches from three to two, but said that the BCCI had not officially made that request during engagements between the organisations.
The tour has been thrown into jeopardy since scientists revealed a new strain of the Covid-19 virus last week. That led to a number of nations around the world restricting travel to and from South Africa, despite little being known about the potency of the new variant, which was named Omicron.
The Indian government last week said the BCCI would need to consult it before the Indian team could embark on the tour. On Thursday, Kohli, speaking ahead of the second Test with New Zealand that starts in Mumbai on Friday, said the Indian players were hoping to hear in the next few days about the future of the tour. “Having clarity is important. We have spoken to all the senior members of the squad and Rahul (Dravid, India’s head coach) has started that conversation,” said the Indian captain.
“We have been talking to the board to get clarity and the decision will be taken in one or two days' time. Pretty soon we will have absolute clarity on what is going on."
Various media reports in India, stated that the BCCI would make a final decision by Sunday.
The tour is absolutely vital for Cricket SA’s finances, which have taken significant hits throughout the pandemic. Cricket SA announced losses of R221-million at its AGM in October. Most of those losses stemmed from the England limited overs tour last year being cut short, and were worsened when Australia indefinitely postponed its Test series here in March.
Cricket SA and the South African government have sought to provide assurances to India that it would be safe to tour South Africa. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement this week, thanking the Indian government for not banning travel to South Africa and also outlining that the tour would take place in a bio-secure environment (BSE). Cricket SA, through Proteas limited overs captain, Temba Bavuma and Test skipper, Dean Elgar, said BSE protocols, while challenging, were secure, and a necessity if international cricket was to be played.
Crucially for CSA, the India A side, chose to stay in South Africa to play its three match series against a South Africa A team in Bloemfontein, despite the Netherlands, withdrawing from its One-Day series against the Proteas after the first match last Friday. The Dutch cricket board cited concerns about travel arrangements after that country’s government had joined others in the European Union in banning travel from South Africa.
Cricket SA has successfully hosted Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s men and women’s teams in BSE’s, along with various domestic competitions this year.
The Indian players have bounced from one ‘bio bubble’ to another since the IPL in 2020, facing significant challenges in Australia and then England, earlier this year. In fact they departed that tour early, after some members of the back-room staff contracted Covid, leading to the final Test of that series being postponed.