Gillette ODI Series v New Zealand
COVID-19 pandemic sends ODIs behind closed doors
Escalating pandemic has forced Cricket Australia to shut out fans for the Chappell-Hadlee series while the planned women's tour of South Africa is also postponed
13 March 2020, 09:01 AM AEST
Australia's three-match men's ODI series with New Zealand will be played behind closed doors, Cricket Australia announced today, while the World Cup-winning women's side's South Africa tour has been suspended.
Australia and New Zealand's men will now play two matches in an empty Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday and Sunday, with a third match scheduled for next Friday at Hobart's Blundstone Arena.
The matches will still be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo, while ABC and Macquarie will have the radio calls, but only accredited media and broadcast personnel will be admitted into the venues.
All fans who purchased tickets are eligible for a full refund. And while media and broadcasters will be allowed access, a precautionary perimeter between them and the players and team staff will be enforced.
CA has also confirmed the planned six-game tour of South Africa by the Australian women's team has been suspended until further notice.
Meg Lanning's side were set to depart this weekend for three ODIs and three T20 internationals between March 22 and April 4.
There is no impact on the remaining Marsh Sheffield Shield fixtures, with the final round due to get underway from March 17 and the final scheduled for March 27, which is likely to be played in Wollongong.
CA are keeping options open for any subsequent series for both men's and women's teams, including the Australian men's T20 tour of New Zealand that will immediately follow the third ODI in Hobart.
"We believe this is the right decision to minimise the risk of public exposure to the coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic on Thursday," said CA chief executive Kevin Roberts.
"Cricket Australia has been monitoring the coronavirus situation for several weeks, particularly looking at advice provided by DFAT and other relevant government agencies, including the Australian Institute of Sport, which has outlined a coordinated approach for all Australian sports. We have also consulted with an infectious diseases specialist.
"Our players and staff have been adopting recommended sanitary practices during this time to minimise the chance of exposure and will continue to do so."
Bangladesh this week confirmed dates for a two-Test series with Australia in June, with the Aussies then scheduled to head immediately to the UK for a limited-overs tour in July.
Australia captain Aaron Finch, speaking on Thursday before the closed-door policy was announced, said "it would be weird to play in an empty stadium" for the home ODIs.
"You get so accustomed to the atmosphere of the fans and riding the momentum, especially when you are playing at home," Finch said.
"If it comes to that … we'll wait and see.
"We saw the NBA being suspended, it's not ideal but there's a lot of people affected and that's unfortunate."
Finch's Kiwi counterpart Kane Williamson says his side has been briefed by Cricket New Zealand about how to combat the COVID-19 threat.
"It's a concern all around the world at the moment, other countries are affected a lot more at the moment," Williamson said.
"No one's exempt it seems to be travelling the globe so suddenly you need to be very cautious."
The latest measures come after the Melbourne Cricket Club revealed a patron of Sunday's Women's T20 World Cup final at the MCG has since been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The spectator, who was sitting in section N42 on Level 2 of the Northern Stand, has been classified as a low-risk of spreading COVID-19 to surrounding patrons, according to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
Numerous Australians are also due to head to the IPL although India yesterday imposed travel restrictions that may keep foreign players out of the country until at least April 15.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced Friday morning (Australian Eastern time) that the final two ODIs between India and South Africa in Lucknow and Kolkata would be played "without any public gathering, including spectators."
Brijesh Patel, governing council chairman of the Indian Premier League, said the organisation would meet on Saturday to discuss "all possibilities" regarding the tournament.
News of India's new travel restrictions had yet to filter through to Finch when he spoke to reporters at the SCG on Thursday but he said IPL franchises "have been great in updating players pretty much daily".
"We're just concentrating on tomorrow … it's difficult, we know it's a pandemic now," said Finch, one of 17 Australians with IPL deals.
"It's going to be tough, no doubt there'll be some restrictions in place for teams and fans and grounds.
"It'll be interesting to see how it unfolds."
In Colombo, England captain Joe Root had an awkward start to his tour of Sri Lanka when Lahiru Thirimanne, captain of the SLC Board President's XI, went in for a handshake at the coin toss of the warm-up match, before realising Root was offering a fist-bump.
Sri Lanka, too, has imposed travel and visa restrictions while the England team has already taken steps to ban handshakes with opponents and selfies and autographs with fans.
"At this stage, the series is planned to continue, but we want to stress that this is a highly evolving situation and circumstances are changing rapidly, sometimes several times a day," said the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Bangladesh shelved two Asia v Rest of the World Twenty20 matches that had been planned for March 21 and 22 as part of a wider celebration in the country.
"The decision to postpone the events was based on the general cautionary advice for the public from the government and international health agencies," BCB chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chowdhury said.
"We regret the inconveniences but at the same time hope that everyone concerned will understand our position as this is a major health issue across the globe and we cannot leave anything to chance," he said.
The International Cricket Council will hold board meetings originally to be held in Dubai via conference call instead.
"The Board and a number of committees will convene remotely to consider matters for urgent decision only, with the full meetings rescheduled for early May," the ICC said.
Gillette ODI Series v New Zealand
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey (vc), Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Jhye Richardson (SA series only), Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Ish Sodhi, Matt Henry, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.