Cricket South Africa has delivered a scathing response to Cricket Australia’s decision to postpone the upcoming Test series, which potentially spells financial catastrophe for the organisation.
On Tuesday evening, CA confirmed the three-match series would be postponed because the wellbeing of staff and players could not be guaranteed.
South Africa has endured a tumultuous second wave of COVID-19 this summer, recording thousands of new cases every day throughout December and January.
During England’s recent tour of South Africa, multiple fixtures were postponed after players and hotel staff tested positive for the virus.
The country has been battling a mutant strain of the virus and currently has a positivity rate with its testing of 10 per cent.
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CA interim chief executive Nick Hockley said progressing with the tour “poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community.”
Despite the prevalent health concerns, CSA expressed its “immense disappointment” at the series postponement, claiming “the safety of players is always paramount.”
“Over the past few months, CSA held many detailed discussions with CA regarding COVID-19 protocols,” CA said in a statement.
“These discussions included assessing and managing the COVID-19 risks and consulting with a range of leading medical experts.
“CSA worked hard to meet the changing demands of our Australian counterparts.
“CSA is particularly disappointed given that South Africa recently hosted Sri Lanka in a bio-secure environment (BSE) at Centurion, with no breaches of protocol. Currently the Pakistan Women’s team are touring the country in a secure BSE in Durban.
“In addition, it must be noted that President Ramaphosa announced an easing of lockdown restrictions last night in response to the 75 per cent reduction in new COVID-19 infections since the peak of the second wave in December 2020.”
South African great and CSA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith said the organisation was “extremely disappointed” in CA’s “frustrating” decision.
“CSA has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure that we meet every single expectation of CA,” Smith said.
“This was set to be the longest tour in a BSE 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.”
As reported by The Daily Telegraph’s Ben Horne, CA demanded hotel staff in South Africa quarantine for two weeks before the Test squad arrives to ensure the biosecurity bubble is safe.
CSA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra, said the organisation did everything in their power to appease CA’s demands.
“The protocols we had proposed to CA were unprecedented,” Dr Manjra said.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“These are just some of the protocols that CSA was to put in place. We had really gone the extra mile to make sure that the tour would proceed.”
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CSA Acting Chief Executive Officer Pholetsi Moseki added: “It is indeed sad that after all the engagements and effort made to ensure a secure visit by our Australian counterparts, the tour has been derailed. CSA has incurred significant costs related to the planning stages and the cancellation of the tour represents a serious financial loss.
“In this challenging period for cricket and its member countries, we believe the stance taken by CA is regrettable and will have a serious impact on the sustainability of the less wealthy cricket playing nations.”
ESPNcricinfo journalist Daniel Brettig revealed CSA was eager for the series to take place on home soil, ruling out the possibility of Australia hosting the three Tests.