A switch of the Sydney and Brisbane Tests, to give New South Wales more time to deal with its current Covid-19 outbreak, is one of two possible scenarios Cricket Australia is being compelled to consider as state governments begin tightening their borders once more.
The cricket, broadcasting and media caravan got out of Adelaide in the nick of time on Saturday and Sunday, in some cases a matter of hours before the state’s premier Steven Marshall announced mandatory 14-day quarantine for recent visitors to greater Sydney.
Similar complications are at the heart of discussions about how to possibly reframe the remaining Tests between Australia and India, with the strong preference of CA, Cricket NSW and the SCG Trust to find a way of avoiding the outright loss of the Sydney Test.
“The third Test is more than two-and-a-half weeks away, which provides us with time to assess the evolving public health situation on the northern beaches of Sydney,” CA’s interim CEO Nick Hockley said in a statement. “We have made no changes to our schedule and our preference remains to play the match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“Cricket Australia has developed a solid track record of delivery throughout this most challenging of summers and will continue to make appropriate and proportionate decisions in consultation with our biosecurity team, governments, State & Territory Associations, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, our partners and venues”
Switching the Gabba Test to the third game of the series, allowing free movement from Melbourne, to Brisbane and then finally to Sydney, would allow the SCG to still host a match, albeit with likely hard restrictions on crowd numbers and also flow on effects for the Big Bash League schedule.
The growing Covid-19 outbreak has forced fresh consideration of other contingency plans, such as playing both the Boxing Day and New Year’s Tests in Melbourne. Such a scenario would be as much about ensuring the touring caravan can travel freely onwards to Brisbane, the venue for the final Test, rather than being caught up in Sydney.
This plan is believed to be favoured by broadcasters for reducing the amount of travel undertaken by production staff and equipment, and consequently achieving a cost saving. However, the preferences of the BCCI and the Indian touring team will also need to be considered.
“CA has prepared for the possibility of Covid-19 hotspots and state border closures over the course of the summer and the protocols that we have put in place have been effective in ensuring the safety and success of the men’s and women’s domestic and international programs to date,” Hockley said.
“It was less than a month ago that South Australians were contending with an outbreak of the virus in Adelaide and we have just completed a brilliant first Test at the Adelaide Oval. We faced similar issues in relation to the Melbourne Cricket Ground playing host to the Boxing Day Test and we are now less than a week away from welcoming back Victorian crowds after a difficult year for the state.
“We will continue to work closely with all relevant parties to make the right decisions in the appropriate timeframes.”
Australia’s stunning three-day victory over India in Adelaide played out against the backdrop of the Sydney outbreak, with David Warner and Sean Abbott travelling early down to Melbourne to ensure they were not caught up in what are likely to be increasing restrictions on travel out of New South Wales.
“Of course been chatting about that, fingers crossed it doesn’t escalate too much,” Cummins said. “I think Davey got his own Lear jet down to Melbourne from all reports, so he’s sorted. But of course CA have been amazing with our medical staff there, they’ve thought of every contingency and red hot on our discipline with mask wearing and isolation before coming into the bubble. So fingers crossed Sydney can look after themselves but I think we’ll see Davey and Sean down in Melbourne.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig