Aussies eyeing Test return to South Africa in 2023
CA's CEO optimistic a window can be found in 2023 for Australia to tour South Africa after this year's campaign was called off
14 October 2021, 03:17 PM AEST
Australia's men's team are eyeing a window in 2023 to reschedule the three-Test tour to South Africa that was called off earlier this year due to COVID-19 related security concerns.
Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer Nick Hockley said today that despite the global pandemic creating further cramming of an already packed international cricket schedule, there appeared to be opportunity in 2023 for Australia to play their first Tests in South Africa since the infamous 2018 tour.
After the Proteas returned from sporting isolation in 1992, Australia have historically played Test cricket in South Africa during February-March although they did play a pair of November Tests at Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2011.
Through the 1990s and 2000s, the two teams would regularly meet in Tests in Australia over the holiday season before South Africa hosted a reciprocal series on home soil immediately after.
But that arrangement ended after 2009 when the Proteas announced they wanted to play at home over each Christmas period, before agreeing to return to Australia for the traditional Boxing Day and New Year' Tests from 2022-23.
The current iteration of the International Cricket Council's Future Tours Program only extends to the first quarter of 2023, and shows South Africa playing a three-Test series in Australia over Christmas-New Year 2022-23 after which Australia heads to India.
Hockley did not elaborate on when the "window" for the rescheduled Test tour – the first between the teams since the sandpaper incident of March 2018 – might open but claimed the two nations maintained a strong relationship despite Cricket South Africa expressing "immense disappointment" when this year's tour was called off.
"We've been working over recent months to look to reschedule, and we think we've found a window in the calendar in 2023 to reschedule that tour," Hockley told a media conference in the wake of CA's annual general meeting today.
"Our relationships with South Africa are very strong.
"As we said at the time, we were very disappointed and I know our players were extremely disappointed not to be able to go to South Africa.
"So we're pleased we've been able to find a window in 2023 to reschedule that tour."
While Hockley was optimistic about the prospect of securing a place in the calendar for the South Africa tour, he reiterated Australia's planned one-off Test against Afghanistan seems destined to be postponed.
The historic match was to have been played at Hobart's Blundstone Arena next month, but after the Taliban returned to government in Afghanistan, CA announced it had "no alternative" but to withdraw the offer to host the Afghan team due to the Taliban's stated opposition to women playing cricket.
Under the ICC's conditions for Test match status, member nations must host both men's and women's programs although the global governing body has yet to adopt an official stance on Afghanistan, with the men's team due to participate in the T20 World Cup starting later this month.
Hockley confirmed today the next scheduled ICC meetings will not take place until the closing stages of that T20 tournament in the UAE and Oman, but also indicated an official CA decision on the proposed Afghanistan Test in Hobart would be made soon.
"We're working with the Australian Government and also working with the ACB (Afghanistan Cricket Board) on the finer details," he said today.
"We will be looking to confirm the status of the Test match relatively imminently.
"It certainly won't be cancelled, it's more likely it will be postponed until we've got a bit more clarity but we're working through those details at the moment."
Today's AGM was dominated by yesterday's resignation of long-serving director Earl Eddings, who stood down from his position less than a month after he was unanimously endorsed by the CA Board to serve a second term as chair.
Interim chair Richard Freudenstein oversaw today's meeting and confirmed the board's plan to identify and appoint a permanent chair before year's end, although he claimed he had not thought about whether he would consider filling the role full-time.
"We've got a number of very strong candidates on the board who I think could do the job, and we'll go through a very thorough process," Freudenstein said.
"We'll consult widely, and we'll find a fantastic permanent chair for cricket.
"But I'm not even thinking about that.
"I'm thinking about the next two months, and I've got a number of priorities I want to get done.
"One is to support Nick (Hockley) and the team to deliver what is going to be a fantastic summer.
"Secondly, put in place the process of trying to fill the chair.
"And thirdly, to start rebuilding some of the relationships with stakeholders both here and overseas and continue to push forward the strategy review looking at the cost and revenue opportunities for Australian cricket more broadly."
Freudenstein conceded the timing of Eddings' departure, weeks into the Australian season which has already seen completion of a women's multi-format series against India, was "a little bit unfortunate".
However, he did not believe it would adversely impact CA's capacity to deliver a packed summer schedule.
"The board had planned for an orderly transition that would have started with appointing a successor (to Eddings) at the end of the season, and then with that handover happening over the next period of time to help build those relationships," Freudenstein said.
"But we've got an experienced board, an experienced executive team and we will make sure things get done.
"That's just the way cricket works."
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