Bio-Secure Environments Are Never Foolproof: Smith Empathises With BCCI Over IPL Situation > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Bio-Secure Environments are never foolproof: Smith empathises with BCCI over IPL situation

All 11 SA players in IPL 2021 will be home and start quarantining from Friday.

All 11 SA players in IPL 2021 will be home and start quarantining from Friday.

Maybe because he and Sourav Ganguly go back, perhaps because he knows what it feels like to have the plug pulled on an ongoing event, possibly because it's never a bad idea to say good things about the BCCI, but Graeme Smith had empathy and approval for how India's cricket bosses are dealing with the grim-reaping crisis that has engulfed the IPL.

"In no way would we judge," Smith, CSA's director of cricket, told an online press conference on Thursday. "Having spoken to the players, they felt safe. They felt the BSE [Bio-Secure Environment] was a really good experience in India. They never felt at risk. But that's the nature of what Covid brings."

The tournament was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday in the wake of a slew of positive tests for coronavirus recorded inside supposedly secure bubbles. A world record for new cases of the disease in a single country on one day was registered on Tuesday, when 382,146 contracted the virus in India. Twenty-four hours later another 412,431 there had Covid-19. India is the only country besides the United States in which more than 20-million people have had the illness. Only the US and Brazil have suffered more than India's 230,000-plus Covid deaths.

Cricket is a small part of all that, but the IPL is a huge part of cricket. So its suspension, with 31 of its scheduled 60 matches unplayed, rocked world sport. Many wondered what had taken the BCCI so long to act considering the devastation being wrought just outside the walls of stadiums and team hotels. Others were upset that one of the few rays of sunshine in these darkest of days had been snuffed out.

Smith suggested tournament organisers should not be blamed for what had gone wrong: "Sometimes you can do whatever you want but the BSE - as we've said to everyone - is never foolproof. When Covid is raging in your country there's always a risk. Unfortunately once it gets inside it's very difficult to predict what's going to happen."

The Indians involved in the IPL, on the field and off, will now emerge from their bubbles to countenance a society that is being assailed like no other by an invisible enemy whose work is all too visible in public spaces that, with hospitals overflowing, have been given over to the sick and the dying. The challenge is exponentially smaller for the 64 foreign players.

"The duty of care [the BCCI has] shown in getting everyone home has been exemplary," Smith said. "From our own players' perspective it's been made slightly easier in that our borders aren't closed and there's still commercial travel available for them." He said all 11 of the South African IPL players would be home, and in isolation, by Friday.

Smith has a good idea of what Ganguly, the BCCI's president, is going through. England abandoned their white-ball tour of South Africa in December with half the six games postponed after positive tests at the squads' shared hotel. In February, Australia put on hold the three Tests they were to have played in South Africa in March, citing an "unacceptable" Covid risk. But Sri Lanka's men's team and Pakistan's women's and men's sides have since visited South Africa and played 15 matches across the formats without a single positive test, and domestic competitions have been successfully staged.

"I think CSA have put on 15 or 16 BSEs this season, and I don't think enough has been made of the success that we've had," Smith said. "I think Pakistan had been in five BSEs before they arrived here. The feedback we received from them on what we were able to produce here, in comparison, was that it was probably the best. We've got a good grip of how handle it, how we want to do it, and how we roll it out in terms of our testing protocols, the type of hotels we've used, and the mindset. Our stadiums have been excellent."

Clearly, what the English and Australians did to CSA still rankles Smith: "You see some of those players sitting there at the IPL and not making any noise. Having had experience of things here you do see some things differently, and [you see] a version of double standards. It's disappointing."

Even so, Smith appreciated the efforts of Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, to try and remedy the situation. And the Aussies? "We've had a fair few intense discussions with them," Smith said. "We've made it very clear that we want to replace [the postponed series] in the current cycle. Then it becomes a scheduling issue, so it's been a little bit back and forth on that. But I'm hoping we're relatively close to [rescheduling]."

South Africa are due in the Caribbean in June for two Tests and five T20Is, and will go directly from there to Ireland for six white-ball games in July. They are also hopeful, pandemic permitting, of being in India in September and October, and of welcoming the Indians in December and January next year.

That's a lot of cricket. But it could just as easily come to nothing. Little is certain in cricket - or anything else - in the time of Covid.