UPDATE: Since this was first posted, the remaining games in the series have been cancelled. The decision affects the game planned for Hobart. The entire New Zealand team are returning home before the travel ban announced by the New Zealand Prime Minister comes into place. Cricket Australia have said the games are ‘postponed’.
Australia’s three-match men’s ODI series with New Zealand will be played behind closed doors, Cricket Australia announced today, while the World Cup-winning women’s side’s South Africa tour has been suspended.
Australia and New Zealand’s men will now play two matches in an empty Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday and Sunday, with a third match scheduled for next Friday at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena.
The match is Tasmania’s only international cricket fixture of the summer.
The matches will still be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo, while ABC and Macquarie will have the radio calls, but only accredited media and broadcast personnel will be admitted into the venues.
All fans who purchased tickets are eligible for a full refund. And while media and broadcasters will be allowed access, a precautionary perimeter between them and the players and team staff will be enforced.
CA are keeping options open for any subsequent series for both men’s and women’s teams, including the Australian men’s T20 tour of New Zealand that will immediately follow the third ODI in Hobart.
“We believe this is the right decision to minimise the risk of public exposure to the coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic on Thursday,” said CA chief executive Kevin Roberts.
“Cricket Australia has been monitoring the coronavirus situation for several weeks, particularly looking at advice provided by DFAT and other relevant government agencies, including the Australian Institute of Sport, which has outlined a coordinated approach for all Australian sports. We have also consulted with an infectious diseases specialist.
“Our players and staff have been adopting recommended sanitary practices during this time to minimise the chance of exposure and will continue to do so.”
Australia captain Aaron Finch, speaking on Thursday before the closed-door policy was announced, said “it would be weird to play in an empty stadium” for the home ODIs.
“You get so accustomed to the atmosphere of the fans and riding the momentum, especially when you are playing at home,” Finch said.
Finch’s Kiwi counterpart Kane Williamson says his side has been briefed by Cricket New Zealand about how to combat the COVID-19 threat.
“It’s a concern all around the world at the moment, other countries are affected a lot more at the moment,” Williamson said.
“No one’s exempt it seems to be travelling the globe so suddenly you need to be very cautious.”
The latest measures come after the Melbourne Cricket Club revealed a patron of Sunday’s Women’s T20 World Cup final at the MCG has since been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The spectator, who was sitting in section N42 on Level 2 of the Northern Stand, has been classified as a low-risk of spreading COVID-19 to surrounding patrons, according to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
Numerous Australians are also due to head to the IPL although India yesterday imposed travel restrictions that may keep foreign players out of the country until at least April 15.