The 14-day quarantine for India and Australia players who flew from IPL 2020 in UAE is a mandatory rule and there has been no discussion to ease it, said Cricket Australia (CA) interim CEO Nick Hockley.
That means no exception would be made for Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma, currently recuperating from rib cage and hamstring injuries respectively at the NCA in Bengaluru, if and when, they are deemed fit to travel to Australia. It also means that there is very little chance of Virat Kohli, who will return to India after the first Test in Adelaide beginning on December 17 for the birth of his first child, returning for the series.
“I think quarantine arrangements are well prescribed. Our focus is ensuring that training conditions, within that mandatory 14-day period, are optimal for all the players. In relation to Kohli’s plans post the first Test, we have had no discussions,” Hockley said in a media interaction on Tuesday.
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The second Test is in Melbourne (December 26-30) followed by Sydney (January 7-11) and Brisbane (January 15-19).
Due to a sudden spurt in Covid-19 cases in South Australia last week, several members of the Australia Test squad, including captain Tim Paine, were airlifted to New South Wales. The cases have reduced since. According to numbers released the Australian government on Monday, there were 15 new cases in the previous 24 hours while the number of active cases stood at 92.
“There was small contained cluster of Covid cases last week. We have been working very closely with the South Australian government. At this stage, we have been given assurance that it has been contained. The lockdown they were under finished last Saturday At this stage, we are confident the Adelaide Test would go ahead as scheduled,” said Hockley.
“Several million dollars”
The interim CEO also detailed precautions taken to get players from UAE. “We have been cautious by ensuring that we use chartered planes. It was a big complex exercise for the movement, from the UAE over to Australia, of Team India and other returning IPL players. I won’t go into specifics on numbers but additional measures run into several million dollars,” said Hockley.
“The protocols vary depending on the situation on each host. As far as our initial risk rating and the current situation is concerned, we have been very fortunate that there has been very low no or negligible community transmission. As an example, Melbourne which experienced (a) second wave has zero cases of community transmission in the last 28 days. The protocols that we are following include social distancing, making sure there are secure, separate areas within the hotel space and other practical measures.”
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The low number of Covid-19 patients in Australia has prompted the CA to sell tickets for the first test in Adelaide, which will be a day-night affair. Every day, 27000 spectators would be allowed which is half the capacity of the Adelaide Oval.
“Adelaide has become the home of first day-night Test in Australia. There is history there. Now that the borders are opening up, we expect the Australian and Indian fans to travel to attend what will be a historic match. It will be the first day-night game between the two teams,” Hockley said.
Before the Test series, the two teams will play a three-ODI series starting on November 27 in Sydney followed by a three-T20I series beginning on December 4 in Canberra. The series will be broadcast on Sony Network.
The tour is long but Hockley said he is confident that CA and health officials will ensure a safe series.
“Our primary work has been with state government to ensure that the right protocols are in place to minimise the risk any outbreak. There have been some cases of returning visitors testing positive within the quarantine environment. We are hopeful of mitigating any risk with the work that has been done,” he said.
“We have put in place the best possible conditions that include a number of days in quarantine, full-fledged training, centre-wicket practice, gym, for India and returning Australian players from IPL.”
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Hit financially by the pandemic, CA has laid off staff in April. It also saw the T20 World Cup, which it was supposed to host, being shifted to 2022. Amidst these developments, India’s tour is expected to give a financial boost though its biggest star Kohli will miss majority of the Test series.
“We absolutely respect Virat’s decision. He leading the side here brings competitive leadership that we have seen during the last series and we have been accustomed to watching (that) during India’s performances all around the world. But it will have no financial bearing,” Hockley said.