Sydney, Feb 2 (PTI) Australia on Tuesday postponed their tour of South Africa next month citing 'unacceptable health and safety risk' in that country because of a fresh COVID-19 outbreak, a decision that virtually knocks them out of contention from the World Test Championship final later this year.
The Australian team was scheduled to play a three-Test series during the tour.
However, with the host nation battling a second wave of COVID-19 and a new variant of the virus, Cricket Australia's (CA) interim chief executive Nick Hockley on Tuesday said travelling to South Africa is not possible given the current scenario.
'...following extensive due diligence with medical experts it has become clear that travelling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community,' Hockley said in a statement.
'We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen,' the statement read.
The announcement is a blow to Australia's chances of qualifying for the WTC final, scheduled to be played in June in England. The top two teams in the points table will make the final.
Australia, currently third in the WTC points table behind leaders India and New Zealand, needed to win two Tests in South Africa and prevent their hosts from winning one, to ensure their spot in the inaugural WTC decider.
'This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time, our valued relationship with CSA, and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship,' Hockley said.
For Australia to have a chance at qualification, India and England will need to draw at least twice in their four-Test series starting on Friday.
'...we have been consistent since the start of the pandemic that health and safety of our people is always our number one priority and unfortunately despite best efforts to agree to a bio-security plan, the risks are simple too great at this time,' Hockley said 'As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is , especially for Justin, Tim and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can't be compromised.' This is the second series to be postponed in South Africa due to COVID-19. Last year, England had pulled out of their tour midway through an ODI series after there was an outbreak of cases in the team hotel.
Australia had also postponed their tour of Bangladesh last year. New dates for the Bangladesh or South Africa tours are yet to be announced.
'We look forwards to playing the series against CSA at a date that to be confirmed in due course and we send CSA and the people of South Africa our very best wishes for a successful roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine and a return to normality,' Hockley said. PTI APA PM PM