'Safety of players paramount, will act according to government directive' - BCCI on India-South Africa tour amid emergence of new Covid-19 variant

‘Safety of players paramount, will act according to government directive’ – BCCI on India-South Africa tour amid emergence of new Covid-19 variant

Health Ministry’s directive is supreme, BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal said.

India. (Photo Source: BCCI)

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is not in a rush to take a decision over India’s upcoming tour of South Africa after the emergence of a new, heavily mutated variant of Covid-19, named Omicron, spreading rapidly in the African nations.

The India A team is currently in Bloemfontein for three unofficial Tests, of which one has been completed and the other two are likely to go ahead as per schedule, before the senior team flies to the nation on December 8.

Though, the fate of the series, which comprises three Tests, as many ODIs and four T20Is, is hanging in the balance, as even though the cricket boards of both the nations are in talks and “continuously monitoring” the situation, the recent postponement of the Netherlands ODI series and cancellation of the Women’s World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe does not paint a bright picture.

“We are in constant touch with Cricket South Africa, while continuously monitoring the situation over there. Health and safety of the cricketers are paramount and we will act accordingly,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told The Sunday Express.

On November 25, the Indian government called for rigorous screening and testing of those travelling from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where the infections of the new variant have been majorly reported hitherto, while the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare terming the variant to have “serious public health implication”.

“Health Ministry’s directive is supreme. If we get any advisory in this regard, we will certainly follow that,” Dhumal said.

Earlier this week, an unnamed BCCI source was quoted by TOI: “Look, till we get a detailed picture of the ground situation from Cricket South Africa (CSA), we will not be able to tell our next step. As per the current plan, the Indian team is supposed to leave either on December 8 or 9 just after the New Zealand series gets over in Mumbai.”

The official highlighted the possibility of the introduction of hard quarantine and other protocols following the recent developments. “Initially, there was no provision for hard quarantine but obviously the players will remain in a bio-bubble. Now with cases rising in South Africa and the European Union also cancelling flights temporarily, we need to factor in these aspects.”