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Lucrative India cricket tour in the balance after Cricket SA calls off Netherlands ODI series

Captain Virat Kohli and his India team are set to face the Proteas on December 8. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP

Captain Virat Kohli and his India team are set to face the Proteas on December 8. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP

Published Nov 27, 2021


Johannesburg - South African cricket was dealt another blow Saturday when the Proteas’ One-Day International series against the Netherlands was called off due to the tourists’ concerns about travelling back to their home country in the wake of the emergence of a new Covid-19 Omicron variant identified by South African scientists this week.

“The decision comes as a result of mounting anxiety and concern on the side of the (Netherlands) team around travel bans and restrictions on flights from South Africa being imposed by several countries around the world including the United Kingdom (UK), European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA),” a joint statement from Cricket SA and Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond (KNCB) said.

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The opening match of the series took place on Friday, but had to be abandoned due to rain,after just two overs had been bowled in the Netherlands’ innings.

The Dutch players had met among themselves on Friday and then Saturday to decide whether they wanted the tour to continue. The team had said Friday that they were struggling to obtain flights out of the country.

On Saturday, the Netherlands government joined a number of its European neighbours in banning flights from six southern African nations.

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“We are saddened by these circumstances, but are grateful to Cricket South Africa for their assistance and understanding of our team’s position,” said the Chairman of the KNCB, Jurgen Delfos.

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“It must be made clear that the concerns are strictly over travel issues and how soon the team can get home and have nothing to do with the integrity of the Bio-Secure Environment (BSE) that CSA has successfully hosted. Our team has been pleased with every aspect of the organisation of the tour and have been well treated by our hosts.”

Two flights from Dutch airline, KLM, which departed Cape Town and Johannesburg on Thursday night, were held at Schipol airport on Friday morning, with passengers not allowed to disembark for four hours. It was reported later that 61 passengers between the two flights tested positive for Covid-19. It is not known if any of them had the newly identified variant.

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The World Health Organisation, described the new variant as “worrisome,” on Saturday.

“We are disappointed by the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in, but the comfort of all visiting teams must always be paramount,” said Cricket SA’s, acting CEO, Pholetsi Moseki. “The mental well-being of players is one of CSA’s top priorities, and we respect our visitors’ position and point of view.”

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The major concern for CSA now of course will be the fate of the tour by the Indian team next month. Virat Kohli’s men were supposed to touch down in the country on December 8, ahead of a tour that comprises three Tests, three One-Day and four T20 Internationals.

On Saturday, news agency ANI, reported that the Indian government had instructed sports organisations in the country to consult it before teams or players embarked on any trips.

“Not only (the Indian cricket board) 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," Anurag Thakur, the minister for Youth Affairs and Sport told ANI.

The Indian series is of enormous financial importance to CSA, which has already suffered significant blows after England and Australia abandoned tours to South Africa last season.

The India A side is currently playing South Africa A in a three match series in Bloemfontein, which on Friday, the BCCI said would continue as scheduled.

The International Cricket Council on Saturday called off an ongoing qualifier for next year's Women's ODI World Cup in Harare following the emergence of the new variant.