Even as sports events across the world, and especially in South Africa, are being cancelled due to the new coronavirus variant Omicron, India's upcoming tour of South Africa may not be impacted if the cricket Boards of the two countries are to be believed. (More Cricket News)
While the Board of Control for Cricket in India said it was waiting for overseas travel directions from the government and keeping an eye on Omicron developments in South Africa, Cricket South Africa is reiterating that its BioSecure Environment (BSE) created for players and support staff will keep the coronavirus away.
An Indian A team is currently playing a series in Bloemfontein in South Africa. The BCCI said the team was in a safe BSE and since all matches are at one venue, the series will go on.
India are scheduled to play three Tests, three ODIs and four T20 internationals between December 17, 2021 and January 26, 2022. This series is crucial for CSA's coffers due to the millions of dollars earned from broadcasting rights.
But CSA suffered a setback when the Netherlands cancelled an ODI series in South Africa due to the Omicron scare and in nearby Zimbabwe, ICC called off the Women's World qualifiers.
Last weekend in Namibia, a World League to qualify for the 2023 ICC World Cup was stopped after UAE and Oman left African shores before travel restrictions were enforced.
On Tuesday, Cricket South Africa reiterated that its cricket team has been part of at least internationals BSE both at home and away, most recently at the T20 World Cup in UAE, and there was nothing to fear.
According to the CSA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra: “CSA has instituted world class standards and measures to ensure that all players, staff and officials are protected within this environment. Our main focus was to safeguard the cricket biosphere by managing strict entry standards and limited movement outside of its cordon.”
Dr Manjra has emphasised that the BSE has met the highest standards set by national government and CSA is continuously looking at ensuring that the management of the BSE is second to none in the world.
“What we have implemented at our BSE is a cordon sanitaire which offers full and continuous protection to all individuals who respect and abide by our very demanding guidelines and rules”, added Dr Manjra.
“Playing cricket in a BSE was a massive challenge for everyone involved in the game,” said Proteas white-ball captain, Temba Bavuma.
“Everything changed, from the length of our stays in hotels, to how we train and play. We weren’t even allowed to hi-five or hug each other when we celebrated wickets – that part was easier to remember for some, more than others,” he chuckled.
South Africa's Test captain, Dean Elgar echoed Bavuma’s sentiments, saying: “It’s hard to believe that we’ve been working in these BSE conditions for a year now, but anyone who has been affected, either directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 virus, knows that this is a necessity if we want to continue playing cricket.
“It takes a toll on a player mentally and yet this team continues to produce good results and make progress – that’s something that I personally don’t think is being spoken about enough.
“The measures that have been put in place and the hotels have been chosen take into account the teams’ physical and mental health needs. We don’t know how much longer we’ll be operating like this, but it’s gratifying to know that when tours come around the health and safety of all involved is top priority,” said Elgar.
LOSS OF REVENUE
Apart from quality cricket, the bottomline for all tours featuring India is for Boards to earn money from global broadcast rights. An Indian team playing a bilateral series for more than a month is like a goldmine for Cricket South Africa.
If the upcoming Indian tour is cancelled due to Omicron, CSA stands to lose revenue from broadcasters STAR Sports. Although tours are nowadays insured by broadcasters, there will be some loss of revenue if not a single ball is bowled.
Given the packed ICC calendar and especially India's myriad of commitments, to find another window to accommodate South Africa can be quite a task.