JOHANNESBURG – The highly anticipated three match Test series between South Africa and India will take place in Gauteng, with Newlands missing out on its traditional New Year’s Test for the second year in a row owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first of the three Tests against Virat Kohli’s high-flying Indian team will be played at the Wanderers starting on December 17. The second Test, will be played at SuperSport Park starting on Boxing Day. As was the case with Sri Lanka at the start of this year, the Wanderers will host the New Year’s Test in the first week of January.
Although the Ministry of Sport hinted at opening up events for people who’ve been vaccinated, Cricket SA didn’t want to take any chances with the high profile and lucrative series.
Instead, the tour will be divided into two ‘bio bubbles.’ The Test ‘bubble’ will be in Gauteng with a limited overs ‘bubble’ to be hosted in the Western Cape from January 11th until the 26th.
“A huge amount of scenario planning took place,” said Cricket SA’s Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith. “Covid has created a lot of stress. We are also looking at the vaccination levels of the country. Our hope is that that will increase as we get closer to December/January. We just felt that with the information that we had to hand, the conversations with our medical committee, the planning and importance of the tour, that managing that tour to the best of our ability in a Bio Secure Environment is the right way forward.”
On Wednesday, the Sports, Arts and Culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa said he couldn’t provide a timeline for when fans could return to stadiums. Deputy President David Mabuza, said the return of fans was dependent on citizens getting vaccinated.
The government’s lack of clarity, doesn’t help CSA, which has to give assurances to India and broadcast partners about the tour.
“Obviously our goal is to get cricket played and safely played, and with the information we had to work with currently, that was the best decision,” Smith said about the series taking place in ‘bio bubbles.’
The Wanderers hosting two Tests will be music to Kohli’s ears. The Indians haven’t lost a Test in Johannesburg, drawing three times and winning twice, including the last match there in 2018.
The South African women's team will face the West Indies in three T20 Internationals and five ODIs in January, with all the matches taking place in Gauteng. The ODIs will be a crucial part of both teams' final preparations ahead of the World Cup which will be played in New Zealand in March 2022.