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Cricket SA will rue reputation and financial cost of loss of England ODI series

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From the perspective of reputation and business, Cricket SA has incurred a great deal of damage through the cancellation of the One-Day International series against England.

Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town. Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

THIS was always going to be a hugely challenging endeavour for Cricket South Africa. On the face of it, it didn’t look as hard as the series of ‘bio bubbles’ that the England Cricket Board executed in that country during its international season earlier this year.

England shifted between different venues in Manchester and Southampton and hosted four men’s teams across all the formats, while the England women’s team faced the West Indies as well. Cricket SA was hosting ‘just’ two teams at venues less than an hour apart.

South Africa has had local sport return since the lockdown measures were relaxed; the PSL finished its 2019/20 season, then started a new one, though not without a few cases of positive coronavirus tests for players and officials, while the SA Football Association has hosted a couple of Nations Cup qualifiers too, which appear to have gone off without a hitch.

Rugby has struggled, with matches being cancelled in the ‘Super Rugby Unlocked’ competition. All of which suggests, this was never going to be simple for CSA, even as it took very stringent measures with the South African and England teams in Cape Town.

Hopefully those who have tested positive return to good health. The medical profession still seems to be learning about the virus even as vaccines become available. There is a mental, emotional and physical toll that Covid-19 exacts, even after recovery.

There is also the effect of ‘living’ in such a ‘bio bubble’, where movement is severely restricted, which is extremely wearing.

From the perspective of reputation and business, Cricket SA havse incurred a great deal of damage through the cancellation of the One-Day series against England. Cricket SA needed the money the full tour was supposed to generate. Hence the organisation worked so hard to get a secure environment in Cape Town.

It has been a hugely difficult year for CSA, with most of the problems of the organisation’s own making. This tour was supposed to deflect attention away from the administrative dilemmas back to matters on the field. The postponement of this ODI series, ostensibly because England lost faith in the secureness of the secure bubble, does further reputational harm to CSA. Sri Lanka, due in the country next for Tests over Boxing Day and New Year, must be concerned.

South Africa is experiencing an upsurge in positive coronavirus cases. The Nelson Mandela Bay metro was placed under curfew by the president last week. There’s been a surge in cases in the Western Cape as well, where England and South Africa were playing.

Last week doubts were expressed about Covid-19 statistics in Gauteng – where the two Tests against Sri Lanka are scheduled to played – while the province’s premier, David Makhura, said the region faced a catastrophic January, if a ‘second wave’ of cases arises as people return from holidaying in other parts of the country.

Against that background it would be incredibly difficult to create a bio-secure environment and following events in recent days, get the Sri Lankan authorities to trust that it will hold.

Cricket SA’s chief medical officer Shuaib Manjra, who put in so many hours to create a secure environment in Cape Town, revealed that CSA had asked laboratories for priority treatment when it came to ensuring test results were speedily available. Will it be right to do that again should Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan send teams here over the next few months and week?

There’s a moral question CSA needs to ask parallel to the financial one and that is: Is it fair to ask of a health system under stress to prioritise cricketers while there is this rapid uptick in coronavirus cases?

Cricket SA’s ‘annus horribilis’ looks like it will carry on into 2021 and the effects on the sport in this country will be far-reaching.