• No Aus tour at 11th hour ‘frustrating’ – Smith

    Cricket South Africa director of cricket Graeme Smith says the postponement of Australia’s tour to the country is ‘extremely disappointing’.

    Cricket Australia on Tuesday announced it has decided not to travel to South Africa during this time of Covid-19 uncertainty.

    In a statement, Cricket Australia said in light of the second wave of infections, South Africa ‘poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk’.

    The announcement comes as a huge letdown for South African cricket, who recently safely hosted Sri Lanka in a bio-secure bubble, while the Pakistan women’s team is about to complete their tour without a single positive case.

    The Momentum One-Day Cup in Potchefstroom has also taken place in a vastly secure and safe playing environment, with the final set for Thursday.

    READ: Australia opt out of three-Test tour to SA

    But Smith, who has been part of discussions between CSA and Cricket Australia for some time, says they were well capable of safely hosting Australia.

    ‘CSA has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure that we meet every single expectation of CA. This was set to be the longest tour in a BSE [bio-secure environment], comprising a three-match Test series that was scheduled to begin with Australia’s arrival later in the month. So, to be informed about the CA decision at the eleventh hour is frustrating.’

    Dr Shuaib Manjra, CSA’s chief medical officer, added there was not much more CSA could have done to appease the Australians.

    ‘The protocols we had proposed to CA were unprecedented. Firstly, we had agreed that our own Proteas team would enter the BSE 14 days prior to the arrival of the Australian team, thus altering their planning during the current tour of Pakistan.  

    ‘Amongst some of the other key arrangements made were that all four areas [two hotels and two venues] had a protocol to implement a strict BSE with no contact with anybody outside this area. 

    ‘We subsequently agreed to two separate BSEs and had granted Australia full and exclusive use of the Irene Country Lodge, which we shared with Sri Lanka, with a minimum staff present on site.  

    ‘In terms of the arrangements, the Proteas were to move to a separate hotel altogether. Furthermore, all hotel staff, match officials and even bus drivers were to enter the BSE 14 days prior to Australia’s arrival.

    In addition, CSA had also committed to importing an Australian tracking system at great cost to ensure proper tracking of close contacts in the event of a positive test.  The touring team was also going to be granted VIP access through the airports, after government intervention to ensure this privilege,’ he explained.

    The Proteas Test squad will still return home from Pakistan next week. They were due to leave the sub-continent ahead of the upcoming T20I series against Pakistan, in order to prepare and undergo necessary quarantine period for the Australian tour.

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    Andre Huisamen