England tour of South Africa was scrapped due to tourists’ ‘negativity’ rather than health concerns, says CSA boss

CSA and the ECB said the ODI series had been called off to protect players’ ‘mental and physical health’

Alex Pattle
Friday 11 December 2020 12:14
<p>England and South Africa players and staff stayed at the Vineyard Hotel</p>

England and South Africa players and staff stayed at the Vineyard Hotel

The chairman of Cricket South Africa (CSA)’s interim board, Judge Zak Yacoob, has said there was “no justification” for England to abandon their tour of South Africa this week.

The One-Day International series between the two sides was called off after issues around Covid-19 became too great to overcome, with a joint statement by CSA and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) saying the decision was taken by both boards “to ensure the mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams.”

Following a successful Twenty20 series, the first of three ODIs was originally scheduled for last Friday before a third positive test for a Proteas player since England arrived into South Africa. Thus, the series opener was to be Sunday, with a view to playing on Monday and Wednesday to get all the matches in before England were due to depart on Thursday.

However, Sunday’s match was then cancelled after two members of the touring party were positive for Covid-19 following testing on Saturday evening after two members of the Vineyard hotel staff, where both teams were staying, tested positive. It was then decided Monday’s match would also not take place, with outside hope for matches on Tuesday and Wednesday. Alas, after discussions between the governing bodies, they came to the only responsible decision.

READ MORE: England confirm two-Test tour of Sri Lanka

But there was no need to abandon the tour, according to Yacoob.

He told a virtual news conference on Thursday: “What I want to negate is an idea that our provision of services was substandard and that there is any justification for the English saying they did not want to participate and go home. 

“The facts are that, ultimately, they were negative. We have gone into our protocols and we think that our protocols have been very good.

“There may have been an issue of psychological troubles. People may have felt nervous about false positives. Our position is that we do not wish to blame the English, but we wish to say absolutely and completely that any notion that they went away because it was in any way our fault, is completely wrong.

“There is an awkward narrative coming out that third-world countries can’t manage these things properly. I can say we have been managing the virus much better than England. There was some attempt to ensure that in relation with what happened with England, Sri Lanka should not come here. They are coming next week, I hope.”

Yacoob said he is “95 percent certain” that South Africa’s hosting of Sri Lanka for a Test series will go ahead on 26 December.

Yacoob also admitted that the CSA could have been stricter with England. Media in South Africa have made a point of the fact that England were allowed to play golf away from the Vineyard Hotel, where both teams were staying, and ESPNcricinfo reported that Western Province officials were forced to warn the ECB about a potential guideline breach ahead of the postponed first ODI.

“Many aspects of the operational side are not working and I don’t want to go into details of that, because then those in charge of the operational side will start running to the newspapers to say how bad the board is," Yacoob said.

“The only criticism I can make, and I am not even authorised to make it, is that we were too lax with the English and their desire to do things which – in our strict view – they shouldn’t be doing. 

“We were stronger on preventing our players from doing things and we allowed the visitors a little more laxity. There’s a courtesy thing, because they are visitors and so on.”

England are set to tour Sri Lanka and India in early 2021.

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