COVID-19: Cricket Australia declares Melbourne as standby venue for Sydney Test

MELBOURNE, Dec 24: Cricket Australia on Thursday said Melbourne has been placed on standby to host the third Test between India and Australia if Sydney’s COVID-19 situation renders it “untenable” despite efforts being made to continue with the original schedule.

The fate of the third Test has been shrouded in uncertainty since earlier this month after a fresh COVID-19 outbreak in the northern beaches in Sydney, which is scheduled to host the third Test from January 7.

“CA has reaffirmed its commitment to giving it the best chance to play the third Vodafone Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the fourth Vodafone Test at the Gabba as per the original schedule,” CA said in a statement.

“Should the public health situation in NSW render playing in Sydney untenable, CA’s preferred contingency plan is to work with the Victorian Government to play the third Vodafone Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground followed by the fourth Vodafone Test at the Gabba,” it added.

A final decision on the third Test venue would be made during the Boxing Day Test.

Even though the situation in northern beaches has improved, there are concerns that Queensland will not grant the required exemptions, which will mean players and broadcasting crews will not be able to travel from Sydney to Brisbane between the third and fourth Tests.

However, CA interim chief executive officer Nick Hockley said the board is working closely with the Queensland government to get  exemptions.

“We are working constructively with the Queensland Government and have been encouraged by the positive nature of discussions with them. We thank the Queensland Government for their support,” Hockley said.

“The record testing numbers and the drop in new community transmissions in NSW have provided cause for optimism, however if the situation in Sydney deteriorates, we have strong contingency plans in place,” he added.

Earlier, CEO Stuart Fox said Melbourne Cricket Club is “ready” to host back-to-back matches between India and Australia but would rather see Sydney retain its traditional New Year’s Test.

“I’ve been in touch with Cricket Australia daily and our position has been, we would love to see the Sydney Test Match stay in Sydney, it’s no fun having it relocated,” Fox told ‘SEN Radio’.

“We’re ready to go if we’re needed, but again, if that Test can get away in Sydney, it’s such an iconic Test, very traditional and an important sporting moment in Australian sport so let’s hope it gets away, I’d hate to see it moved.”

In a bid to save its New Year fixture, NSW on Wednesday had offered to host the Brisbane Test as well, if the Queensland government refuses to grant exemptions to the teams returning from Sydney.

“I don’t think a decision is pending today, probably the strategy would be to delay and see where the Sydney numbers get to,” Fox said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot to think about with staffing, preparing another pitch and ticket sales, so we’re in a position, we’re ready to go, but again, let’s hope it stays in Sydney.

The series finale is scheduled to be played at the Gabba on January 15. (PTI)