Covid variant to cloud India-S Africa series in Dec?

New Covid variant: CSA, BCCI in touch ahead of series in December

The cases are on the rise in the northern part of the country and few venues for the Test series could become vulnerable to the spread of the new variant

BCCI. Credit: AFP File Photo

Ahead of India's series against Proteas next month, Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Friday said that they are monitoring the situation in different parts of their country and will keep the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) informed about the development, amid the fears over the spread of a new variant of Covid-19 in the nation.

The new Covid-19 variant has been causing panic the world over and it also made its presence felt in South Africa this week. The fourth wave of the pandemic is also expected to peak in South Africa in the next few weeks and will coincide with the packed summer cricket schedule.

The Indian men's cricket team, which refused to play a Test in Manchester earlier this year because of Covid-19-related fears, are due to play three Tests, three ODIs, and four T20Is from mid-December across four venues - Johannesburg, Centurion, Paarl, and Cape Town.

The cases are on the rise in the northern part of the country and few venues for the Test series could become vulnerable to the spread of the new variant.

"We are in contact with the BCCI and there is no prejudice to the Indian tour to South Africa at this stage. We will, of course, continue to monitor developments regarding the spread of the virus and keep the BCCI informed. As CSA we remain committed to ensuring that all visiting teams and Proteas players are afforded a safe environment to play cricket," Lawson Naidoo, the head of CSA, told Cricbuzz on Friday evening.

Also read: With Johannesburg, Pretoria among venues, concerns about India's tour of South Africa amid new Covid variant's rise

Notably, the Indian men's 'A' team is also currently in South Africa, playing the first four-day game in Bloemfontein which ended in a draw today. The team is scheduled to play two more four-day games which start on November 29 and December 6.

The visiting team, currently based in Bloemfontein, has had a series of meetings with the CSA officials and the local medical team and has decided to complete the three-match series.

"The distance between the two places is over 1000 miles and we have been told that there is no immediate health hazard. We have had discussions with the CSA officials and the medical team. The team hotel and the ground area have been sanitised and we're in a bio-bubble," said team manager Anil Patel.

"At this stage, we have decided to stay on,'' he added.

India A team has also had conversations with the BCCI officials. Two new members - Deepak Chahar and Ishan Kishan - joined the squad on Thursday and the team is scheduled to leave for India on December 10.

Earlier, the Indian government on Thursday told all the states and Union Territories to be cautious about international passengers travelling from or through Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong in view of a new Covid variant detected in South Africa.

In a letter to the states, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, "It has now been reported by NCDC that multiple cases of a Covid-19 variant -- 8.1.1529 -- have been reported in Botswana (three), South Africa (six) and Hong Kong (one). This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus has serious public health implications for the country in view of the recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.

"It is imperative that all international travellers travelling from and transiting through these countries and also including all other 'at risk' countries are subjected to rigorous screening and testing. The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested."

International cricket in South Africa was also disrupted heavily last year because of the pandemic. England abandoned a tour without playing the ODI series after positive cases in the South African camp and Australia did not travel to play a three-match Test series, costing CSA millions.

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