Earl Eddings admitted there are challenges dealing with CSA due to the state of the game in the country
Earl Eddings, the Cricket Australia chairman, has stressed that the safety of the national team’s players and staff will not be compromised in any way in deliberations around how to handle the looming Test trip to South Africa, with all parties closely watching the ongoing progress of Sri Lanka’s tour.
The South Africa squad to face Sri Lanka has been affected by players testing positive for Covid-19 and needing to be removed from the group, a further setback for Cricket South Africa’s plans after the recent England tour was forced to be abandoned due to problems around the integrity of the biosecurity bubble the tourists and home side were embedded in for white-ball matches.
ESPNcricinfo has reported that there have been informal discussions floating the possibility of the three Tests being moved to Perth, given South Africa’s strong recent playing record in Australia, but Eddings insisted that CA’s intention was to fulfil its commitment to tour.
However, he was equally adamant that there was no room for compromise on the health and safety standards being demanded to ensure Australia’s players and support staff were not placed at undue risk on an overseas tour at a time when international travel has all but ground to a halt due to Covid-19 and border closures.
“We’re watching very closely and we want to be playing South Africa in South Africa,” Eddings told ESPNcricinfo. “First because we want to play them and secondly because it’s great for the growth of the game. But the safety and welfare of our players and staff is paramount, and we’ll work out what the scenarios are.
“South African cricket is also in a bit of flux at the moment, so trying to work out who the best people are to be talking to. While we want to play there as much as we can, I’m not going to be compromising the safety of our players and staff. Our intention is to tour.”
Eddings acknowledged the added complexities of the South Africa tour being discussed at a time of significant unrest within CSA. “Trying to find the best person [to speak to] is difficult, and we’ve got to be respectful because they’re going through a difficult time and their own challenges,” he said. “As things start settling down again and we get closer to the tour we’ll have some more formal discussions. We’ll see how that plays out over the next few weeks.”
Pat Cummins, the Australia vice-captain, said that all players would be watching the progress of the Sri Lanka tour very closely as the clock ticked down towards their own scheduled visit, and noted the tremendously high standard of safety experienced by the touring team to England for a white-ball tour earlier this year.
“I know CA and the medical staff will be of course starting their planning right now for that South African tour,” Cummins said. “But obviously not an ideal situation, especially for the English team who went over. All I can say is when we went to the England tour earlier on this year it was absolutely incredible the lengths the ECB went to, to ensure our safety. Hopefully South Africa can try and provide a similar kind of level of service and it’s a place we love touring and love playing cricket so we hope we can get over there.”
Reflecting on a year of much upheaval, Eddings said he was never more nervous about how the Test series against India would get underway than during weeks of lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations with the Queensland state government about using Brisbane as India’s point of entry.
“I was always confident we’d get the series away, there was never one time I didn’t think we would do it,” he said. “But there were some sleepless nights. I think when we found out we couldn’t quarantine in Brisbane was a big one, but luckily we were able to reach out to the New South Wales government, who within 72 hours mobilised and allowed us to come in.
“It was always a challenge about where we were going to play, but in terms of India not turning up I was always confident they would turn up and they were just as keen to come as we were to have them. Never thought they weren’t going to play, but certainly had some moments wondering how we were going to do it.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig