Hopes that domestic cricket would be in full swing by October seem to have
been knocked to the curb by Cricket South Africa (CSA) but they are hoping to have international cricket back as early as August.
While it was fortunate that the Covid-19 pandemic only struck South Africa
when the cricket season was just about over, the effects look set to ironically have an even greater impact on the 2020/21 domestic campaigns, with CSA chief executive Jacques Faul admitting on Thursday that only “half a season” was likely.
“It depends on the government levels of lockdown and we are hoping to meet
with the minister of sport, arts and culture to make a case for us to start
playing cricket again earlier,” Faul said in a teleconference.
“Our initial plan was to start next season as normal, but that seems unlikely now. Our second plan was to have half a
season and that is now more likely, with the Mzansi Super League at the start in November/December.
“There are factors like getting permission for domestic travel and the costs. There will be risk involved in playing domestically and I don’t think we can afford the cost of the bio-bubbles for that, with our broadcast deals not so much focused on domestic cricket. But we can probably start with the Mzansi Super League in November or December, even with restricted capacities in stadiums.
“The good news is we have had a teleconference with India and we are
encouraged by their willingness to still play three T20s in August, although
maybe a bit later in August.
“We will play behind closed doors if necessary because the India tour is very important to us. That additional content is worth a significant amount of money for us. There are some very important
tours in terms of broadcast deals.”
The Proteas’ first bit of action could come in early August, however, as that is when CSA and Cricket West Indies are hoping to stage the two Tests and five T20s that were initially scheduled from July 15. But the West Indies have had their tour of England rescheduled for July and that has caused a clash of dates with South Africa.
“It’s time to get cricket going again and we’re trying to find a schedule that works with the West Indies. They should finish in England on July 29, which means we have to shift our dates,” said CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith.
“India should be coming here at the
end of August for three T20s, so the West Indies series will have to be before or after that. Obviously this all depends on government regulations on both sides.
“Trinidad is favoured by the West Indies at the moment, but we could play at a neutral venue or even here. Nothing is cast in stone.
“The players are preparing though for coming back to cricket and we believe we can get that done behind closed doors if necessary. We will explore all options – neutral grounds, or having more than one team at a time because of the 28 days quarantine at either end.”
According to CSA chief medical officer Shuaib Manjra, their scenario planning for the return to play included studying the measures put in place by inter-city football competitions like the La Liga in Spain and the Bundesliga in Germany.
“We’re drawing from the England Cricket Board, Cricket Australia, La Liga and the Bundesliga in terms of best practice and we’re also engaging with SA Rugby and Safa to ensure we’re on a common platform when it comes to returning to play,” Manjra said.
“A bio-bubble or cordon sanitaire is at the extreme end of the spectrum, but it would ensure all stadia have strict access protocols.
“The stadia would be sanitised, there would be strict control over who comes
in and goes out and regular testing – a couple of days before people go in
and again just before.
“We don’t envisage spectators being allowed and things like saliva on the ball are clearly a no-no.”