Graeme Smith on Aussie tour disappointment: 'It's frustrating to be informed at 11th hour'

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Graeme Smith
Graeme Smith

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has expressed its disappointment in the sudden postponement of this month's three-match Test series between the Proteas and Australia.

Cricket Australia (CA) on Tuesday revealed that their scheduled tour will not go ahead due to coronavirus fears.

In a statement released on Tuesday, CSA through its Director of Cricket Graeme Smith said that CSA had held many detailed discussions with CA regarding Covid-19 protocols.

"These discussions included assessing and managing the Covid-19 risks and consulting with a range of leading medical experts including the SA Ministerial COVID Advisory Committee. CSA worked hard to meet the changing demands of our Australian counterparts," the statement read.

"CSA is particularly disappointed given that South Africa recently hosted Sri Lanka in a bio-secure environment (BSE) at Centurion, with no breaches of protocol. Currently the Pakistan women's team are touring the country in a secure BSE in Durban.

"Apart from those two successful BSEs, CSA has continued its domestic One-Day Cup in a BSE in Potchefstroom and no positive cases have been reported. In addition, it must be noted that President Ramaphosa announced an easing of lockdown restrictions last night in response to the 75% reduction in new Covid-19 infections since the peak of the second wave in December 2020."

A frustrated Smith voiced his dissatisfaction.

"We are extremely disappointed by the decision of CA," he stated.

"CSA has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure that we meet every single expectation of CA.

"This was set to be the longest tour in a BSE comprising a three-match Test series that was scheduled to begin with Australia's arrival later in the month. So to be informed about the CA decision at the eleventh hour is frustrating."

CSA's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra, added that there was not much more CSA could have done to appease CA and prepare more appropriately.

"The protocols we had proposed to CA were unprecedented," he stated.

"Firstly, we had agreed that our own Proteas team would enter the BSE 14 days prior to the arrival of the Australian team, thus altering their planning during the current tour of Pakistan.

"Amongst some of the other key arrangements made were that all four areas (two hotels and two venues) had a protocol to implement a strict BSE with no contact with anybody outside this area.

"We subsequently agreed to two separate BSEs and had granted Australia full and exclusive use of the Irene Country Lodge, which we shared with Sri Lanka, with a minimum staff present on site. 

"In terms of the arrangements, the Proteas were to move to a separate hotel altogether. Furthermore, all hotel staff, match officials and even bus drivers were to enter the BSE 14 days prior to Australia’s arrival.

"In addition, CSA had also committed to importing an Australian tracking system at great cost to ensure proper tracking of close contacts in the event of a positive test.  The touring team was also going to be granted VIP access through the airports, after government intervention to ensure this privilege. 

"These are just some of the protocols that CSA was to put in place. We had really gone the extra mile to make sure that the tour would proceed."

Pholetsi Moseki, CSA Acting Chief Executive Officer, added: "It is indeed sad that after all the engagements and effort made to ensure a secure visit by our Australian counterparts, the tour has been derailed. CSA has incurred significant costs related to the planning stages and the cancellation of the tour represents a serious financial loss. 

"In this challenging period for cricket and its member countries, we believe the stance taken by CA is regrettable and will have a serious impact on the sustainability of the less wealthy cricket playing nations."

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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