India committed to touring South Africa if COVID-19 pandemic subsides
India and South Africa could play three T20 Internationals at the end of August as part of a prior "agreement", provided the situation arising out of the pandemic improves substantially
With a commitment to tour South Africa in August followed by the IPL likely in October, the BCCI seems ready with its resumption plan as it waits for the COVID-19 situation to improve and cricket to resume "in earnest" after the monsoon. Cricket South Africa on Thursday revealed that the BCCI has shown "willingness" to play three T20 Internationals at the end of August. This was after Board CEO Rahul Johri said he expects the sport to restart after the monsoon. India and South Africa could play three T20 Internationals at the end of August as part of a prior "agreement", provided the situation arising out of the pandemic improves substantially for governments on both sides to give a go-ahead.
The fixtures are currently earmarked for late August but Cricket South Africa's acting chief executive Jacques Faul, encouraged by the BCCI's "willingness", said both parties are not averse to having the series at a later date. "India wants to honour its agreement. If it's postponed, maybe a bit later," Faul said during a virtual press conference on Thursday. "We've had a very good discussion with them (BCCI)," the CSA executive added.
A BCCI official on condition of anonymity said that the possibility is "there" provided they get an all clearance from the government of India. "First, we have to get the players for a conditioning camp in a green zone. Obviously, if things are on track, we would play in South Africa," the official told PTI. BCCI agreeing to this bilateral series will also mean that they will have CSA's support if they want to organise the cash-rich IPL in October-November window instead of the T20 World Cup.
Considering the fast-evolving situation, CSA has reiterated that the series will be subject to the clearances from the highest authorities of both India and South Africa.
Faul said they have already initiated the process to seek permission from the South African government. CSA's Director of Cricket Graeme Smith said having the series without spectators is not much of a logistical issue either. "We have been talking to them and the commitment is there to get the three T20s done," Smith said at a news conference on Thursday.
"There is an element of guesswork, no-one knows what things will be like at the end of August. But we believe we are a socially-distanced sport and that we can play behind closed doors," he added. Johri, while addressing a webinar on Wednesday, gave some insight into the BCCI's plans going forward. "We are going to be guided by the Government of India in its entirety, whatever are the government guidelines is what we'll follow...Cricketing activity in earnest can start practically only after the monsoon season," he said.
India's monsoon season lasts from June to September. There is speculation that IPL might be conducted in October-November if the T20 World Cup in Australia is postponed. "¿hopefully things will improve and give us more variables which we can control and accordingly take the decision." He also highlighted the many logistical issues that are going to crop up because of the new safety protocols to minimise the risk of infection.
"The flavour of the IPL is that the best players around the world come and play, and everyone is committed to maintaining that flavour. Of course, it is going to be a step-by-step process, so you cannot expect normalisation tomorrow," he said. "We need to factor what the government advisories will be. Right now there are no flights. At some point flights will open and everybody needs to quarantine themselves before playing.
"How will that impact the schedules because as it is the schedules are extremely tight," he explained. A 14-day quarantine is being talked about as one of the compulsory safety measures, which is likely to have a huge bearing on the overall scheduling. "So there are a lot of moving parts. Having said that we stay optimistic. Hopefully the situation post the monsoon will improve and we approach it that point of time," Johri said.
He also touched on the challenges the Board will face while conducting India's lengthy domestic season, which goes on from October to May and features more than 2000 matches. "In this changing scenario the scheduling of domestic cricket needs to be completely relooked at because today there is a team which can travel 50 kilometres to play a match or 3000 kilometres to play a match," he said.
"Everybody plays every other team home and away. Now in this scenario where travel is restricted, where players' safety, support staff safety is of paramount importance, how do you conduct these leagues?
"It is a discussion that will be had and interesting options will have to come up. Innovation will be the key in this," he added.
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