India’s tour of Australia is set to begin in Adelaide and Brisbane after a cold shoulder from the Western Australia (WA) state government helped clarify the options for Australia's international season.
The Adelaide Oval is on standby to host consecutive Tests – a day-night game and then a day match – if the MCG stays unsuitable for the Boxing Day Test amid Victoria's global virus lockdown.
Cricket Australia (CA) has depended heavily on state associations for their planning, with matches to be mainly staged by staff already present in each state, which is a major change from recent seasons when the CA flew a massive travelling roadshow of events.
The model was introduced under the financial model that had CA taking direct responsibility for international fixtures management and passing on fixed annual distributions to states.
"We didn't think it was acceptable to have the team return from a high-risk overseas location and then take part in normal training activities outside of quarantine, before flying out to another state to play games," Mark McGowan, the Premier of the WA state government, said.
Earlier plans prepared by CA and the WACA had the Australian and Indian players entering the country through Perth and beginning preparations for the season via a relaxed quarantine that would allow them to train.
The final decision by the WA state government and its Premier Mark McGowan, though, is to insist on a strict hotel quarantine for any international visitors, thereby forcing the governing body to look at Brisbane and Adelaide for the start of India's tour, which is likely to begin with some limited-overs matches before the four-Test series gets underway.
"We acknowledge the WA government has a firm position on quarantine and border arrangements. The Australian men's team will not be quarantining in Perth upon their return from the UK," a CA spokesperson said.
What this means for the scheduled Test between Australia and Afghanistan in Perth is unclear, although WA's frustration at not being allotted one of the India Tests in the original schedule is evident. CA are still working on ensuring that the Afghanistan match takes place as it would make for some practice for the hosts before the start of the India series.
We didn't think it was acceptable to have the team return from a high-risk overseas location and then take part in normal training activities outside of quarantine, before flying out to another state to play games," McGowan said.
"There were just too many risks in the model put forward by Cricket Australia. We need to remain vigilant and do the right thing by all Western Australians and not take unnecessary chances," he added.
One plausible scenario could see white-ball matches with three ODIs and three T20Is - all slated to be played by India – being played instead of the Brisbane Test that was in the original schedule. It may give way to the Afghanistan Test match before the Australian squad travels to Adelaide for the Test series against India in mid-December.
While Melbourne is likely to be the host of the traditional Boxing Day Test for as long as possible in theory, crowd situations and the global pandemic-related restrictions make it look like Adelaide will have to step in with each passing day.
After that, the Test season could reach a crescendo with successive matches in Sydney. The other options are to return to Brisbane and the Gabba for the final Test of the series. A revised Test series schedule is expected to be announced by CA this week after government approvals.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Peter Parks