A final decision will be made before the end of the Boxing Day Test on December 30.
In a diplomatic win for CA, their plans have been given the thumbs-up by the NSW Government, a major financial backer of the sport in the state and which came to the game’s rescue by granting exemptions for the Indian team, paving the way for the suite of lucrative one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches to go ahead.
Sydney had mounted an 11th-hour bid to host back-to-back games but that was thwarted by the short turnaround between the third and fourth Tests.
“It’s really challenged [us],” CA chief executive Nick Hockley said.
NSW cricket officials, however, still have cause for optimism they will see Tim Paine’s men in action on the SCG in the new year. There is even hope the Test could be played in front of a 50 per cent capacity.
“If things continue on the trajectory they’re on in NSW then it’s full steam ahead for Sydney then Brisbane,” Hockley said.
“The case numbers and amount of testing gives us a great degree of confidence.”
Those plans, however, are contingent on COVID-19 case numbers remaining steady and for the Queensland government to reopen its borders to Greater Sydney by January 12 when the Test circus heads to Brisbane.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said the latter will not be reviewed until January 8 at the earliest. Exemptions would need to be granted if the border remains closed.
CA were furious in October after Queensland refused to grant exemptions for Team India and Australia’s returning IPL players to train while in quarantine, but conversations between Hockley and Palaszczuk were more cordial on Christmas Eve.
“We’re dealing with a very different set of circumstances,” Hockley said. “Everyone’s in Australia, observing biosecurity protocols. We’ve got a very strong track record now in delivering all the cricket safely.
“Let’s not forget we worked very constructively with the Queensland government to bring the New Zealand women’s team in for the international tour. That was back in September.
“The conversations we’ve had as recently as this morning have been very constructive, very positive, that gives us a great deal of confidence we’ll be able to work through the detail with them.”
Queensland’s chief health officer indicated on Thursday morning the state would look favourably at granting exemptions to the two teams.
“These cricketers have been part of a bubble, they will go into Sydney and continue to be part of a bubble, then if the decision is for the match to go ahead in the current arrangements – and that has not yet been decided, it’s being worked through – they would remain in a bubble and come into quarantine in Queensland and continue to be part of a bubble,” the state’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said on Thursday morning.
“But I stress those discussions are happening now and things could very well change. Nothing’s been determined at this stage.”
NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres welcomed CA’s announcement.
“It’s a sensible decision by Cricket Australia to give Sydney every chance to host the traditional New Years Test at the SCG,” Ayres said.
“Our preference has always been to maintain the original Test schedule and given the exceptional management of the northern beaches outbreak I see no reason why that would change.
“Travel arrangements into Queensland are a matter for the Queensland government.”
‘Should the situation in NSW render playing in Sydney untenable, CA’s preferred contingency plan is to play the third Test at the MCG.’
Venues NSW chairman Tony Shepherd, who held the same role with the SCG Trust, praised CA for its efforts to keeping the Test in Sydney.
“I think Cricket Australia, led by Earl Eddings and Nick Hockley, have handled this very well,” Shepherd said. “They’ve given us the maximum amount of time to see what can be done. They’ve been extremely professional.”
An update was provided on Thursday afternoon outlining Cricket Australia’s back-up plans.
“CA has reaffirmed its commitment to giving it the best chance to play the third Vodafone Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the fourth Vodafone Test at the Gabba as per the original schedule,” a statement from CA said.
“CA has strong bio-security protocols in place and is working constructively with the Queensland Government to secure the requisite exemptions to enable players, match officials, broadcasters, media and staff to move from Sydney to Brisbane following the third Test should border restrictions remain in place at that time.
“Should the public health situation in NSW render playing in Sydney untenable, CA’s preferred contingency plan is to work with the Victorian government to play the third Vodafone Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground followed by the fourth Vodafone Test at the Gabba.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald
Daniel is an Age sports reporter