While the improved coronavirus situation on the northern beaches has raised hopes, the other key issue is whether Queensland will grant exemptions to both teams, and broadcast and CA event staff, to enter the state. Broadcasters have not given up hope of Sydney keeping its Test but there are fears it may run out of time.
The simplest solution would be to move the Sydney Test to Melbourne then head to Brisbane as planned, but the head of the beefed up new Venues NSW, which runs the SCG, has thrown up a radical alternative.
Back-to-back Tests in Melbourne remains the most likely scenario should the circuit not be able to enter Queensland.
“We can run two Tests if necessary, no problems at all,” Tony Shepherd told the Herald and The Age.
Cricket officials in Queensland will be furious if the Gabba lost its Test, essentially because of the hardline stance its state government has taken on its border.
The NSW government came to CA’s rescue in October when it allowed Team India and Australia’s returning IPL stars to train while serving their 14-day quarantine in Sydney.
It came after the Queensland government denied the same request by CA, which had been under the belief for several weeks that permission would be granted.
‘NSW is the cricket centre of Australia in terms of participation, players at the elite end and at community level.’
Tony Shepherd, Venues NSW
NSW’s intervention allowed CA to stage the six one-day internationals and Twenty20 games preceding the Tests in Sydney and Canberra, key fixtures in the game’s $300 million summer.
“We’ve made it very clear to Cricket Australia we’re flexible and would be very, very disappointed to lose the Sydney Test,” Shepherd said. “And that’s with the support of the NSW government.
“Sydney saved the day, the NSW government supported it, NSW is the cricket centre of Australia in terms of participation, players at the elite end and at community level. We have the biggest Indian diaspora in Australia.
“The SCG is the most historic ground in Australia, second most historic ground in the world. It’s a special place. The NSW government is very supportive of having the game, and will do everything we can to have it as a success.”
Any change in fixture would need approval from the Indian board, whose team would be better suited by two games at the spin-friendly SCG.
Shepherd has previously said the SCG would need at least five days to prepare a second Test strip, but now claims this will not be an issue. The fourth Test is due to start January 15, four days after the scheduled finish of the previous game.
“All the wickets are in perfect condition,” Shepherd said.
A Queensland government source has indicated the state will not review its border closure to Greater Sydney any earlier than January 8, but a Queensland Health spokesperson said discussions were ongoing with CA.
“Our priority is keeping Queenslanders safe and keeping transmission out of our community,” the spokesperson said. “We have been able to relax internal restrictions sooner than other states because we have been cautious with our borders. Sport and Recreation and Cricket Australia are currently in discussions with the Queensland government.”
Hopes for a capacity crowd in Sydney have been dashed but Shepherd said he would accept whatever restrictions are decided by the state government.
Though Brisbane and Melbourne could house bigger attendances, CA has said the size of crowds was not a factor in its decision-making process as it had been faced with empty houses when the fixture was released.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald