The proposed three-match Test series between South Africa and Australia, part of the ICC World Test Championship, has been postponed, with Cricket Australia citing the Covid-19 situation in South Africa as a deterrent.
In a statement, Nick Hockley, the CA interim CEO, said the three-match tour had been postponed due to the "unacceptable level of health and safety risk" in South Africa, which is battling a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Due to the public health situation in South Africa, which includes a second wave and new variant of the virus, and following extensive due diligence with medical experts, it has become clear that traveling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community," he said in a statement on Tuesday, 2 February.
Today we informed Cricket South Africa that we believe we have no choice but to postpone the forthcoming Qantas Tour of South Africa due to the coronavirus pandemic. Full statement 👇 pic.twitter.com/mYjqNpkYjp— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) February 2, 2021
"We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen.
"This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time, our valued relationship with CSA, and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.
"However, we have been consistent since the start of the pandemic that the health and safety of our people is always our number one priority and unfortunately despite best efforts to agree a bio-security plan, the risks are simply too great at this time. As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin [Langer, coach], Tim [Paine, captain] and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can't be compromised."
Addressing the press on Wednesday, Hockley said the risk of a player contracting COVID-19 and the ramifications that would have on them returning home made the tour impossible at this stage.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Cricket South Africa was informed by Cricket Australia that their scheduled tour to SA will not be going ahead due to Covid-19 fears.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) February 2, 2021
“We are extremely disappointed by the decision of CA,” Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith, stated. 🗣 pic.twitter.com/NW0ZfyMFbT
"What happened during the process is really two things. South Africa very sadly have hit the peak of their second wave, and then secondly we've got the more virulent strain, which there's still lots of unknowns around," he said.
"So as we've worked through the residual risk and also some questions and challenges around if we were to get a case how and when we can get our players back home, taking advice of medical experts and putting health and safety absolutely No.1, we were really left with no other option."
He stressed that Cricket Australia and the players were disappointed to postpone the series, adding that it was a particularly tough call to make as it means they are no longer in control of their own fate when it comes to qualification for the World Test Championship Final.
However, he said they would not be asking the ICC to delay the Final to allow the postponed series against South Africa to be played in time to impact qualifications.
"We all knew the rules going in and I think that's what's made this decision really, really hard," Hockley said. "We've done everything we possibly can to make the tour go ahead but in the end we had to listen to the overwhelming medical advice, so we won't be pursuing that with the ICC, but it's just another reason why not being able to tour is so disappointing."