Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Amidst Omicron scare, South Africa hope to host India. Cricket South Africa sold the rights of the India series for USD 105 million
Cricket South Africa sold the rights of the India series for USD 105 million
Dear India. Please come. It's not just about the money, although that's important. It's also about history, fairness, and respect. And about establishing whether we're part of the world or locked out and looking in. Like we were before November 1991, when you let us return from the cold. So please come. Please.
That's not Cricbuzz talking. It's South Africa's government, and every cricket-minded South African. A release by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on Tuesday was followed, on Wednesday, by a CSA statement on the issue, bringing to 952 the number of words spent in this cause. Doubtless there will be many more. They could all be summarised into one: desperation.
Wednesday's CSA effort was headlined, in capital letters: “Proteas confident in CSA BSE [bio-secure environment] protocols”, and quoted the organisation's chief medical officer, Shuaib Manjra, men's captains Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma and board chair Lawson Naidoo, who posted Tuesday's DIRCO statement – “South Africa welcomes Indian cricket teams” – on his social media pages. The latter's plural is a nod to the fact that India A are here, and that their series in Bloemfontein is continuing as planned. The implication is that what's good for Priyank Panchal's geese is, surely, good for Virat Kohli's ganders.
At 10.47 pm (SA time) on Tuesday night, DIRCO bolstered its release with a notice on its website that read, in part: “The South African government has noted with regret the announcement by several countries to impose temporary travel restrictions on our country. It should be noted that these were unilateral decisions taken without consulting South Africa, and therefore beyond our control. The South African government will continue to do all it can to ensure that these unwarranted travel bans are lifted.”
If you think you read seething between those lines, you're not wrong. There is outrage in South Africa that it is being punished for alerting the world to the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. A variant, mind, that has since been found in several other countries, and in some cases to have been there before South Africa's scientists raised the alarm. In this view, that Omicron wasn't so much detected in South Africa as it was detected by South Africans is a subtle but vital distinction.
But CSA don't have the luxury of anger. They know from the painful experience of England walking out of their tour last December and Australia's refusal, in February, to fulfil their commitment to visit in March that venting their frustration doesn't help. Neither is it of any use to reassure the BCCI that South Africa's bubbles are as tight as any in the world, and tighter than many.
What matters is the Indian government's reaction to the rise in Covid-19 cases in South Africa from the zero that was reported on November 18 – down from 22,910 new infections on July 8 – to 4,373 on Tuesday. The fourth wave is underway in the country.
Currently travel between India and South Africa is moderately encumbered. From Wednesday, all travellers bound for India will be required to inform the Delhi government of their whereabouts for the previous 14 days and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their departure. Since Friday, those coming from “at risk” countries, which include South Africa, have been tested on arrival and – in the case of Indian nationals – required to quarantine in their homes for seven days.
Technically, then, India's tour remains possible. But indications are it is becoming less than probable. That the BCCI want the number of Tests reduced from three to two has been reported, albeit without confirmation. Also that India would rather postpone the tour, and that the selection of their squad has been put on hold. You would have to be hopelessly optimistic if you didn't read reluctance between those lines. And all that against the pressured backdrop of the BCCI's annual meeting on Saturday, when issues weightier – to India, though not South Africa – will be discussed. Sourav Ganguly's primary focus must be on that.
Yet it's difficult not to empathise with South Africa's situation. Thanks to years of maladministration, cricket in South Africa isn't in a sound state monetarily. But the USD 105 million CSA sold the India tour rights for dwarfs the loss of USD 13.5 million they declared in October for the 2020/21 financial year. The international game's grotesquely skewed economics means all countries depend on tours by India to some extent; South Africa more than most. For the tour to even be deferred would have a significant impact on cricket's resources and affect the game adversely at all levels for years to come.
Thirty years ago, before apartheid had been defeated but with its downfall assured, India dared open its doors to South Africa's regrettably all-white team. That venture of three ODIs encompassed a range of firsts: never before had South Africa played against India, never had they taken on opponents who were black or brown, and never had they played an ODI.
Now South Africa are asking India to dare put their faith in systems that have passed the test, and to respect their team enough to come and play cricket against them. It's not that simple, of course. South Africa need, desperately, this tour to happen. India need, understandably, to make the best decision in the interests of their players' safety and wellbeing. The choice is theirs.