Cricket Australia on Monday said the SCG remains its preferred venue for the third Test against India after reports emerged that the governing body is contemplating swapping the last two games of the four-Test series due to growing COVID-19 cases in Sydney.
Australian cricket officials were put on high alert last week after an outbreak of the virus in the northern beaches in Sydney, which will host the third Test from January 7.
There were reports that the CA was mulling options and “swapping the third and fourth Tests between Sydney and Brisbane was the top alternative”.
However, CA’s interim chief executive officer Nick Hockley said he is hopeful of staging the third Test between Australia and India at the SCG.
“We have made no changes to our schedule and our preference remains to play the match at the Sydney Cricket Ground,” Hockley was quoted as saying by ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ in a statement.
“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.”
With cases growing, star Australia opener David Warner and pacer Sean Abbott — both recovering from injuries — were on Saturday flown from Sydney to Melbourne, which will host the Boxing day Test from December 26.
The governing body’s coronavirus working group was also due to meet on Sunday to take stock of the impact of Sydney’s northern beaches virus cluster on the third Test.
With the number of cases shooting to 71, Victoria and South Australia have already announced tighter border controls, while the New South Wales state government have also imposed fresh restrictions.
Under the current circumstances, there are concerns that Queensland state may close its border with New South Wales, which will mean players and broadcasting crews will not be able to travel from Sydney to Brisbane between the third and fourth Tests.
Hockley said the governing body is prepared for such contingencies.
“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,” he said.
According to the report, “Hosting the next two Tests in Melbourne, where the series will resume on Boxing Day after Australia took a 1-0 lead in Adelaide, is another option…”
The opening Test saw crowds returning despite fresh outbreak of COVID-19 cases in South Australia in the build-up to the series.
“It was less than a month ago that South Australians were contending with an outbreak of the virus in Adelaide and we have just completed a brilliant first Vodafone Test at the Adelaide Oval,” Hockley said.
“We faced similar issues in relation to the Melbourne Cricket Ground playing host to the Boxing Day Test and we are now less than a week away from welcoming back Victorian crowds after a difficult year for the state.”
The sydney outbreak had an impact on the broadcasters with former Australian pacer and Fox Cricket commentator Brett Lee returning home in northern Sydney midway through the opening Test.
Two Sydney-based members of the broadcaster also returned home last week, while two more decided to work from hotel.
Three members of the SEN commentary team, which was covering the first Test, also had left Adelaide last week.
India on Sunday lost the first Test by eight wickets to fall 0-1 behind in the four-match series.