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CSA confident there will be a Sri Lanka tour

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Officials from Cricket SA have been in contact with their Sri Lankan counterparts to give them assurances that all the proper measures will be in place for the Boxing Day and New Years Test matches.

The Proteas are still preparing for the Sri Lankan tourists, despite the premature end to the England tour. Picture: Shaun Roy, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Cricket South Africa remains confident that the rest of the summer schedule for the men’s Proteas will take place, despite the hasty end to the England series this week.

Officials from CSA have been in contact with their Sri Lankan counterparts to give them assurances that all the proper measures will be in place – including stricter controls than was the case for England – for the Boxing Day and New Years Test matches.

Cricket SA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shuaib Manjra said Tuesday that he is “fairly confident,” that the Proteas’ Tests against Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park and the Wanderers will continue.

The ODI series between England and South Africa was indefinitely postponed on Monday, after tests for Covid-19 over the weekend indicated what was referred to as “unconfirmed positive tests” among two members of the England group. That followed three positive tests in the Proteas squad, while two members of staff at the hotel where the teams were staying also tested positive.

However, on Tuesday, the England Cricket Board confirmed that after further testing and analysis, the two individuals were “not infected.” That won’t go down well in the corridors at CSA, especially since the England squad will still only leave on the charter flight on Thursday as originally scheduled.

Cricket SA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra. Picture: Courtney Africa

Manjra would not venture an opinion about England’s decision to withdraw from the remainder of the tour. “I think that the real risks are extremely low, but perceived risk is something that I can’t control.”

Manjra is sure that the bio-secure environment set up in Cape Town for the two teams and the set of officials, was not breached and the onus was on players everywhere to grow accustomed to living in a pandemic. “The nature of infectious diseases is that they manifest in different ways and in different spaces, you can’t completely control them. I get a sense that England is a victim of its own success.”

England completed a full international schedule in its summer season earlier this year, hosting the West Indies (men’s and women’s teams), Australia, Ireland and Pakistan. The measures put in place there were extremely strict but also very expensive. “It was done at enormous cost, that we can’t afford. England will probably admit that it is unsustainable to do that,” said Manjra.

There were no positive cases throughout that English season, but Manjra feels a more realistic – and affordable option – is to manage positive cases in the way they have been in the English Premier League, where individual players isolate for a period of time before returning to the field of play. “You get positive cases, the game goes on, it’s becoming a fact of life, it’s part of public health, it’s about how you deal with it. You can’t develop an attitude that you have one or two positive cases and suddenly you feel unsafe,” said Manjra.

“There is no place that can be completely sanitised – you can do it, but it comes at enormous cost. It’s unsustainable for any sport – Lewis Hamilton just tested positive, does that mean the Grand Prix schedule comes to a halt? Does the EPL come to a halt when players test positive?”

Nevertheless, Manjra said he had learned lessons from the England experience, and applying those, won’t come as good news for South Africa’s players.

“I have regular conferences with the ICC, and even independently with all role-players and without fail, they all tell you the psychological effects (of living in a bio-secure, lockdown environment) are quite significant. We recognised that if we go pretty draconian in terms of the measures that we take, it will negatively impact on players.

“We tried to create a relaxed attitude while applying Covid-19 protocols but to create a balance between being draconian and having a relaxed attitude in terms of what we did.

“We tried to create a rational programme, what we’ve learned is that maybe going forward we need to enforce some of the rules more strictly, it will be uncomfortable, but it will be in the bigger interests of the game, given that we want to have a full schedule.”

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia remains committed to the three-Test tour to South Africa next February despite England halting its tour. “The tour of South Africa is part of the World Test Championship and the Future Tours Program,” a Cricket Australia spokesman said.

“We will continue to plan for the tour and monitor the biosecurity situation.”

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