The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been questioned relentlessly about its management of the New Zealand tour.
The tour officially begins on December 18 but for the last week players and officials have been under the pump from the local and foreign media as COVID-19 infections keep on increasing amid reports of lax enforcement of health protocols.
However, a similar kind of situation is emerging on the other side of the world as England tours South Africa.
On Friday, both teams were set to face each other in the opening game of three-match one-day international series but the match was called off just an hour before the toss. The postponement was caused due to another player coming out positive for COVID-19, taking the total affected tally to three till now. The series opener has been shifted to Sunday while the whole South African contingent went under new testing.
The recent case came out on December 3 and most probably is a result of a breach of protocols during the T20I series. Cricket South Africa says it is investigating the breach. CSA respecting the confidentiality of the players hasn’t released any names but eyebrows were raised when Henrich Klassen was not in the playing eleven for the third T20I and captain Quinton De Kock stated that he is not feeling well.
It is possible that the player might have been in contact with other players who were involved in the game on Wednesday. This also means that the infection could have been transferred to the England team as well on the field.
The recent development has raised serious question marks over the future of this tour and there have been talks of ending the series. The England squad are due to leave from South Africa on Thursday with most of the players hoping to be with their families for Christmas while some of them will be travelling to Australia to take part in the Big Bash League starting next week.
CSA’s chief medical officer in an interview said: “There is a cause for concern and England has expressed concern. England are questioning the confidence they have in the bio-secure environment and rightfully so.”
“If there has been a player who tested positive in the last week, they have cause for concern and we respect that concern. We met with the English medical team and we have planned out a way. We will retest all players and hotel staff. We will await the results and determine a course of action and then on Tuesday before the final ODI we will retest the team again.”
This is the third positive case from the hosts. On November 18, the first positive case was reported while two players in close contact were isolated immediately. Second case was reported on November 20 which saw the intra-squad match being called off. Although team mangement didn’t reveal any names but the omission of David Miller and Andile Phelukwayo, who are usually sure starters in South Africa’s playing eleven missed the T20I series.
England’s team management has also raised concerns over the effectiveness of the bio-secure bubble in South Africa.
Ashley Giles, England’s team director addressed the situation in a statement said “On behalf of the England touring party and the ECB, I would like to thank Cricket South Africa for their collaborative approach to postponing today’s one-day international.”
“Our number one priority is the health and safety of the England team and management group, and the correct decision was made following discussions between the two boards and respective medical teams.
“The England party will remain at its base in Cape Town on Friday and Saturday, and we are hopeful that the three-match series will be played before we depart next Thursday starting with the match at Paarl on Sunday.”
Last month, West Indies team in New Zealand were also guilty of breaking bio-secure bubble protocols. These breaches occurred while the team was under quarantine in Christchurch. The players were seen mingling and sharing food in the CCTV footages. This resulted in West Indies training exemption during quarantine being revoked.
During the England summer, where cricket actually returned after a gap of four-long months, fast bowler Jofra Archer violated the bio-security protocols and went to his house. As a result, he was dropped from the second test of the series. The 25-year-old then went into a five day isolation period where he was tested twice before he joined the squad again.
The future of the England-South Africa series is now dependent on the test results. In the case of more personnel getting affected and time constraints, the tour will have to be cancelled. Also with Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan set to tour South Africa in the coming months, this development will also have an effect on those series as well.