Sydney Test in doubt as Covid-19 outbreak wreaks havoc on Australian sport | Australia cricket team

The Sydney Test could yet become a victim of Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak as new border closures and restrictions wreak havoc with the Aus...


The Sydney Test could yet become a victim of Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak as new border closures and restrictions wreak havoc with the Australian sporting calendar.

Australia’s third match against India, due to start at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 7 January, has been in doubt since last week when a coronavirus cluster emerged on the city’s northern beaches.

But news that almost every state and territory has declared the greater Sydney region a hotspot has put the showpiece event at greater risk of being cancelled.

On Saturday the Sydney to Hobart yacht race was cancelled for the first time in 76 years and there have been postponements and logistical upheaval to the Big Bash League, A-League and W-League.

Cricket officials have been planning for all scenarios, as they did in November when a Covid cluster in South Australia threw into doubt the feasibility of Adelaide Oval hosting the first Test. In the end it went ahead.

Several alternatives have been thrown up, including swapping the Sydney and Brisbane Tests – the latter begins at the Gabba on 15 January – to get around the issue of travelling from Sydney to Brisbane.

Another option is to stage the second and third Tests in Melbourne and skip Sydney altogether – before playing the fourth at the Gabba. The SCG clash could also be moved to Manuka Oval in Canberra.

But Cricket Australia’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said it had time on its side and it had “made no changes to our schedule, and our preference remains to play the match at the Sydney Cricket Ground”.

“Cricket Australia has developed a solid track record of delivery throughout this most challenging of summers and will continue to make appropriate and proportionate decisions in consultation with our biosecurity team, governments, state and territory associations, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, our partners and venues,” Hockley said on Sunday night.

“CA has prepared for the possibility of Covid-19 hotspots and state border closures over the course of the summer and the protocols that we have put in place have been effective in ensuring the safety and success of the men’s and women’s domestic and international programs to date.”

On Saturday CA pre-empted Victoria’s decision to close its border to greater Sydney, moving injured Test players David Warner and Sean Abbott to Melbourne. The rest of the Australian squad will soon join them after taking a 1-0 series lead against India with an eight-wicket win in Adelaide.

But the closure could present challenges for television networks and operators, some of whom live in Sydney.

Also significantly affected are the Big Bash, A-League and W-League. BBL sides the Perth Scorchers and Hobart Hurricanes are scheduled to travel from Sydney to Melbourne in mid-January and would now require exemptions. CA had also hoped a home finals series could be played after that.

The A-League and W-League seasons are in disarray with multiple games in serious doubt. Both leagues are due to kick off on 27 December but up to 14 games – nine A-League and five W-League across the first two and a half weeks – are set to be postponed.

Five A-League teams are based within the affected New South Wales regions: Sydney FC, the Western Sydney Wanderers, Macarthur FC, the Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix. The Sky Blues and Wanderers also have W-League teams.

Melbourne Victory’s W-League team were due to play the Wanderers on the opening day of the season, and Melbourne City’s A-League and W-League sides were both scheduled to face Sydney FC on 30 December. The Wollongong-based Phoenix had been set to travel to Brisbane to play the Roar on 29 December.

“We have 218 games to play in the next six months and our plan is to deliver all of those games,” head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said. “Where games are impacted by border closures, we will postpone those matches to be played at the earliest opportunity.

“We are closely tracking and reviewing government guidance, and building our plans to ensure that we have the flexibility to respond dynamically to any guidance changes.”

It also appears likely crowd capacities will be reduced for any games in NSW – including the A-League season opener between Western Sydney and Macarthur FC.

Meanwhile, the National Basketball League and Victorian government announced on Monday that the NBL will begin in a Melbourne hub where all nine teams will play 36 games from 20 February.

As part of a four-week NBL Cup, teams will play each other once – most as part of double-headers at John Cain Arena – with results counting towards the regular home-away-season records. The NBL hopes all nine teams will be able to play their standard 14 regular-season home games.

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Newsrust: Sydney Test in doubt as Covid-19 outbreak wreaks havoc on Australian sport | Australia cricket team
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