Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings said Australia remain committed to their tour of South Africa but won’t compromise on the safety of their staff and players.
Australia are due to tour South Africa from late February 2o21, but recent events pertaining to the integrity of the bio-secure environment and a dramatic spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country has given Cricket Australia cause for concern.
England’s recent tour ended prematurely due to concerns around multiple positive cases prior to and within the bubble. Australia are worried about this situation repeating itself and will watch the upcoming series against Sri Lanka closely to gauge whether the hosts have improved their ability to keep everyone safe.
There have been reports about moving the series to Australia, but Eddings refuted those reports, stressing that they were committed to coming to South Africa.
‘We’re watching very closely and we want to be playing South Africa in South Africa,’ Eddings told ESPNcricinfo. ‘First because we want to play them and secondly because it’s great for the growth of the game. But the safety and welfare of our players and staff is paramount, and we’ll work out what the scenarios are.
‘South African cricket is also in a bit of flux at the moment, so trying to work out who the best people are to be talking to. While we want to play there as much as we can, I’m not going to be compromising the safety of our players and staff. Our intention is to tour.’
CSA is under the control of an interim board and have no clear chain of command, particularly after suspending acting CEO Kugandrie Govender last week. Eddings intimated that this made planning the tour complex.
‘Trying to find the best person [to speak to] is difficult, and we’ve got to be respectful because they’re going through a difficult time and their own challenges,’ he said. ‘As things start settling down again and we get closer to the tour we’ll have some more formal discussions. We’ll see how that plays out over the next few weeks.’
Australia fast bowler Pat Cummins stressed the importance of a highly effective bio-secure environment, holding up the team’s experience in England earlier this year as the gold standard.
‘I know CA and the medical staff will be of course starting their planning right now for that South African tour,’ Cummins said. ‘But obviously not an ideal situation, especially for the English team who went over. All I can say is when we went to the England tour earlier on this year it was absolutely incredible the lengths the ECB went to, to ensure our safety. Hopefully South Africa can try and provide a similar kind of level of service and it’s a place we love touring and love playing cricket so we hope we can get over there.’