Coronavirus has breached the bubble barrier. Or so it would seem after the first one day international between England and host South Africa had to be rescheduled. However, the question is, is there merit in the continuance of a series when one cricketer in the bubble might have potentially exposed the others on both teams to the virus as well?
It would be a disaster if an entire series had to be called off because of the covid positive tests erupting even within the bubble, breaching the idea of safety within the four walls of a hotel room as part of the mandatory quarantine and thereafter restricted access in the course of a series.
Questions are being raised about how England managed two home series and the BCCI, the IPL in the UAE, while South Africa seem afflicted by the pandemic now – the first international cricket series and match to be affected by a covid positive report – in addition to their ongoing administrative problems behinds the scene and lack of balance within the team.
There were similar concerns across various international sports fixtures about the efficacy of conducting a tournament in a pandemic in the early months of 2020. It forced Formula 1 racing into a restart and occasionally postponed several tournaments by a few days across various football, basketball and other events across the USA and other countries.
However, as the pandemic lingered, economic compulsions have forced the sport to resume in a bid to capitalize on the claustrophobia setting in by the lockdowns and restrictions around the world.
While several sports resumed with the firm notion that covid positive tests would not stop a series or a tournament, it seems that the notion of highly infectious disease for one cricketer affecting all players on the field and support staff has been brought home the hard way.
The fact that the nature of the virus makes it possible to ineffectively test all players at any one time and clear them all with the virus spanning the period between 8-15 days for manifestation and/or quarantine, it seems even when the tour does resume on the revised date, a couple of days might do little for the overall possible nightmare of more covid positive results.
It is hard to imagine what two days postponement will do to a tour other than rearranging some accommodations and conduct more tests. Like with most decisions this year, this postponement might have had more to do with buying time to find a way to work out the details of the scenario and come up with some plans than to having a concrete plan or executing it effectively.
While the IPL and the England home series will thank their stars that they did not have to deal with this nightmare though they might have rehearsed a couple of possible responses. Maybe seeking help across boards might work Cricket South Africa into a safer, more secure position than the one currently, where every cricketer and support staff and those in close proximity with the two teams as part of the mandatory hospitality might be sweating it out and not in a good way.
At things stand, Pakistan might have feigned annoyance at the New Zealand government’s threat to send back their players for breach of protocol on the yet to begin the tour. But if eight covid positive cases have not highlighted the problem enough while in quarantine, the delicate manner in which the fate of the England – South Africa series now hangs in the balance should bring home the danger of the game losing money and opportunity as some teams and incapacitated cricket boards forced to the sidelines this year to eventually become spectators highlight.