Strain starting to show on cricket as COVID wreaks more havoc
More people tested positive to COVID-19 in NSW on Wednesday than there were fans on the first day of the Sydney Test, as player anxiety grows over the ballooning cases in the Big Bash League.
It was a case of another day, another COVID drama for Cricket Australia, which is showing the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast in keeping the show on the road during the peak holiday period.
25,078 fans attended the SCG on day one of the fourth Test.Credit:Getty Images
But the strain is starting to show across the sport after a day in which 12 Brisbane Heat players return positive PCR tests, forcing CA to again postpone the rescheduled clash between the Heat and Sydney Sixers. There is likely to be more disruption, with a Melbourne Renegades player producing a positive rapid test.
The Sixers squad all underwent PCRs on Tuesday after a coach tested positive, though results that had come through by Wednesday afternoon were all negative.
It brings to 33 the number of players in the Big Bash League and Ashes who have tested positive, and there are a further 16 cases among support staff and their families.
But there was good news for sidelined Test batter Travis Head, who has been cleared to return to Australia’s squad if he returns negative rapid antigen tests on Thursday morning before flying to Sydney, and on Friday.
This would clear the way for him to be available for use as a COVID or concussion substitute, as revealed by this masthead.
Multiple sources in the industry have told The Age and the Herald there is anxiety among players over the uncertainty created by the virus as it sweeps its way through BBL clubs. They say there is a general acceptance among players they will all test positive at some point.
CA is still days away from finalising a plan to relocate the final few weeks of the tournament to Melbourne, with talks ongoing with the Australian Cricketers Association. This would see the eight clubs spread out over hotels, rather than staying at the one place, as a safeguard against the virus entering a venue.
There are 27 matches left to be played in BBL11 after Wednesday’s clash between the Hurricanes and Strikers, including the postponed Stars-Scorchers and Heat-Sixers matches.
Brisbane Heat are the latest BBL club to be hit by the virus.Credit:Getty Images
The dual threat of COVID and rain resulted in only 25,078 fans turning up at the SCG to see England enjoy its best day of play in what has been a miserable tour. The crowd was well short of the 35,000-plus CA had been expecting, and the 35,054 COVID cases reported in NSW on Wednesday.
The broadcasters have not been spared the chaos either, though viewers at home would unlikely be aware of the hurdles being cleared behind the scenes.
Former Australia Test captain Ricky Ponting performed his commentary duties for Channel Seven from isolation in his home in Melbourne while Damien Fleming and James Brayshaw, both part of the network’s A-team, did not feature on the telecast, nor did England great Ian Botham.
Test great Mark Taylor, a columnist for this masthead, and Mark Waugh were among several calling the game remotely for Triple M, while Merv Hughes was sidelined altogether.
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