Sydney, and not Brisbane as initially planned, is expected to be India’s first stop on the team’s 70-day tour of Australia following IPL with the New South Wales government giving requisite permissions to allow Indian cricketers to train during quarantine.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the tour will begin with Sydney hosting four of the six limited-overs matches starting November 27. Two matches are to be played in Canberra. Originally, these matches were scheduled in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but the Queensland government’s refusal to let India players train during a 14-day quarantine that is mandatory in the state was a major stumbling block. The NSW government cleared Cricket Australia’s plan within three days of it being lodged, Herald reported.
There was no confirmation yet from Cricket Australia at the time of writing, but the Herald report said officials were confident SCG will have ‘packed houses’ as per its reduced 23,000 capacity under Covid-19 restrictions. The Women’s Big Bash League starting on Sunday will be played entirely in a Sydney hub.
Although BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has confirmed that after the white-ball matches, the Test series will start with the pink-ball match to be played in Adelaide, the final round of talks are still on between the boards, before the itinerary is released. As per the reworked schedule, the Adelaide day-night Test will start on December 17. Melbourne will stage the Boxing Day Test (starts Dec 26), Sydney will host the New Year’s Test from January 7 and Brisbane will hold the final Test from January 15.
Once the tour dates are announced, the national selection committee will meet to name India’s all-format contingent. Test players not featuring in IPL like Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari, and the support staff are waiting to know when they can fly to the UAE where they can start training ahead of the squad’s departure for Australia after the IPL final on November 10.
It’s still being discussed whether players can travel with families, considering it will be a long tour. While many players are keen that families be allowed, some want to know how strict the bio-secure bubble and 14-day quarantine would be for the families before they take a call.
A day-night practice match is also under consideration to prepare for the Adelaide Test. It is a demand India skipper Virat Kohli and other senior players made last year. “If it’s the first Test then obviously before it whatever practice game you play should be in that format,” Kohli had said.
India has played only one day-night Test, at home against Bangladesh last November. Playing one with the kookaburra ball will be new for them while Australia enjoy an all-win record, having won all seven pink-ball Tests it has played at home. The last time the teams clashed in a Test series, in 2018, India made history by winning their first Test series in Australia.
India’s tour holds immense significance for Cricket Australia’s finances. The board, which has trimmed its staff due to the economic crunch, is involved in a dispute with broadcasters Seven, who are demanding a reduction in the media rights fee.
BCCI is in search of a kit sponsor with Nike’s contract, worth R88 lakh per match, having expired in September. For the cash-rich board, struggling to find a sponsor for Indian cricket is unusual, but there was no response when BCCI invited parties to bid last month. A board official said: “The matter is under consideration at this stage.”