Cricket Australia claims it offered to host the three-Test series against South Africa but that offer was rejected.
The series was postponed indefinitely on Tuesday after CA claimed the coronavirus situation presented too big a risk for Australia to tour. This despite Cricket South Africa meeting numerous extraordinary protocols set out by CA, and coronavirus daily active case numbers in Gauteng – where the series would be played – dropping markedly over the past two weeks.
Early in the negotiation process, CA floated the idea of hosting the series in Perth, a proposal that was revisited recently as the governing body looked for solutions to this challenge.
CA interim chief executive Nick Hockley says that proposal was rejected by CSA.
‘We’ve been doing an enormous amount of work with CSA and we have last night’s decision, so we’ll work through over the coming weeks and months when we may be able to reschedule the series,’ Hockley told ESPNcricinfo. ‘We did offer to host the series here, but CSA made that very clear that they’ve also got lots of other commitments and with quarantine periods and the like, that wasn’t feasible.
‘We didn’t explore [neutral venues] in too much detail, the question if you think about a neutral venue is where, and there are challenges in lots of different jurisdictions, so certainly we made the formal offer to host and CSA, which we respect entirely, made their position very clear and we’ve continued to work as hard as we can to try to make it happen. But we came to a point where people were starting to commit costs, people were starting to have to do pre-departure protocols and enter into bio-secure environments in South Africa in preparation.
‘I think we gave ourselves every shot, we couldn’t have left it any later, but in the end that residual risk, the implications if we did get a positive, the chances of getting a positive, meant we really didn’t have any other decision.’
Hockley pointed to South Africa’s second wave – which, again, is in sharp decline in Gauteng – and the complexities of what would happen if one of the touring party caught the so-called ‘South African’ variant of the disease and had to return to Australia, as the primary reasons they decided to call off the tour at the eleventh hour.
‘What happened during the process is really two things. South Africa very sadly have hit the peak of their second wave, and then secondly we’ve got the more virulent strain, which there’s still lots of unknowns around,’ he said. ‘So as we’ve worked through the residual risk and also some questions and challenges around if we were to get a case how and when we can get our players back home, taking advice of medical experts and putting health and safety absolutely No 1, we were really left with no option.
‘We’ve spoken to the players’ association at length, I’ve spoken to the coach … the players are disappointed, they want to play cricket, they want to appear in the World Test Championship, they want to play Test cricket, they want to get back on the horse after this recent India series. They’re very disappointed and we all went into this endeavour and all worked very hard to make this tour happen.
‘I think the reaction – obviously we’ve spoken to our equivalents at length – I think the reaction from CSA is totally understandable and we share their disappointment given the power of work everyone’s put in to try to make this tour go ahead.’
The decision effectively ends the Proteas’ Test season after the second Test against Pakistan. They will only play Test cricket at the end of the year again, when India tour. Australia have a jam-packed schedule that includes an Ashes series at the end of the year.