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Australia postpone South Africa tour due to coronavirus fears

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Australia’s three-match Test series against South Africa, scheduled to begin in March, has been postponed due to ‘unacceptable risk’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.

This decision will also affect Australia's chances of qualifying for the final of the ICC World Test Championship. 

"Due to the public health situation in South Africa, which includes a second wave and new variant of the virus, and following extensive due diligence with medical experts, it has become clear that traveling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community," Nick Hockley, the CA interim CEO wrote in a statement on Tuesday, 2 February.

Cricket Australia had earlier announced a 19-man squad for the tour that was supposed to leave later this month. The dates were, however, not confirmed. Earlier in January, Cricket South Africa’s acting CEO Hockley indicated that the series would go ahead, subject to an official decision in a week’s time. Even though the cases decreased in the country, CSA’s best efforts were not enough to pursue Australia to take the flight.

"We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen,” Nick stated.

"We have been consistent since the start of the pandemic that the health and safety of our people is always our number one priority, and unfortunately, despite best efforts to agree to a bio-security plan, the risks are simply too great at this time. As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin [Langer, coach], Tim [Paine, captain] and the team, we have a duty of care to our people, and their health and safety can't be compromised," he further added. 

This marks the second time a team has opted not to tour South Africa, incurring huge financial losses for the Proteas, including television rights. Earlier, England had refused to travel for the white-ball series in November, adding to their woes.

The Tests were an opportunity for both Australia and South Africa to make gains on the World Test Championship table, with the Aussies aiming to finish in the top three and challenge for a place in the final while South Africa hoping to settle on a new Test captain and move into the top half.

"This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time, our valued relationship with CSA, and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship,” the CA CEO mentioned.

New Zealand, meanwhile, became the first nation to qualify for the final of the championship, which shapes India as firm favorites to take the other spot.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / CHRISTIAAN KOTZE, JEREMY NG

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