India could play three T20Is in South Africa at the end of August as part of a prior agreement, provided the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic improves substantially for governments on both sides to give the go-ahead, reported PTI.

With countries starting to plan resumption of cricket after the break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic, ESPNCricinfo reported that the three-match series was finalised via teleconference on Monday.

The series, which is not part of the Future Tours Programme, is said to have been negotiated by Cricket South Africa’s director of cricket Graeme Smith and Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sourav Ganguly during a CSA executive trip to India in February, the report added.

According to Cricbuzz, CSA acting chief executive Jacques Faul told an online press conference on Thursday that the board is hopeful India will visit their country in August to play three T20s.

The fixtures are currently earmarked for late August but Cricket South Africa’s acting chief executive Jacques Faul, encouraged by the BCCI’s willingness, said both parties are not averse to having the series at a later date.

“India wants to honour its agreement. If it’s postponed, maybe a bit later,” Faul said a during a virtual press conference on Thursday according to “We’ve had a very good discussion with them (BCCI).”

A BCCI official on condition of anonymity told PTI that there is a possibility provided they get an all clearance from the government of India.

“First, we have to get the players for a conditioning camp in a green zone. Obviously, if things are on track, we would play in South Africa,” the official told PTI.

International cricket has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic with no matches taking place since the second week of March. South Africa, incidentally, were in India for a T20I series which was suspended due to the outbreak. There have been question marks over upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia while IPL has been indefinitely suspended.

Faul said they have already initiated the process to seek permission from the South African government.

“We’re seeking via Sascoc an audience with the sports minister to be given approval to, if needed, play behind closed doors. This will relate specifically to the potential of an incoming Indian tour.

“We’re going to be very innovative because it’s an important tour for us. As I’ve stated before, we’re very encouraged by India’s willingness,” Faul added.

In India, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines, the stadiums are being opened but no spectators will be allowed. Players can start their individual training although the camp which they were planning won’t happen till travel restrictions are in place.

“The BCCI has taken note of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday for containment of Covid-19 across the country,” treasurer Arun Dhumal had said in a BCCI press release.

“Taking into the account the restrictions on air travel and movement of people till May 31, the BCCI will wait further before organizing a skill-based training camp for its contracted players.”

A BCCI official said that the possibility of the series getting under way is possible they get an all clearance from the government. “First, we have to get the players for a conditioning camp in a green zone. Obviously, if things are on track, we would play in South Africa,” the official told PTI.

BCCI agreeing to this bilateral series will also mean that they will have CSA’s support if they want to organise the cash-rich IPL in October-November window instead of the T20 World Cup.

Considering the fast-evolving situation, CSA has reiterated that the series will be subject to the clearances from the highest authorities of both India and South Africa.

Increased focus on bilaterals?

India head coach Ravi Shastri had earlier said that he wanted the focus to be on domestic cricket, bilateral series and IPL when the game restarts after the hiatus. The former India captain said that events like World Cup should not be the priority in the immediate future.

“I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on world events right now,” Shastri had told the Times of India.

“Stay at home, ensure domestic cricket comes back to normal, cricketers at all levels – international, First Class, etc – all get back on the field. That’s the most important bit. Second: Start with bilateral cricket. If we [India] had to choose between hosting a World Cup and a bilateral tour, obviously, we’d settle for the bilateral. Instead of 15 teams flying in, we’d settle for one team flying in and playing an entire bilateral series at one or two grounds,” he added.

England have been steadily ramping up plans to restart with their bowlers as the country’s cricket chiefs stepped up plans to start a season heavily delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The global health crisis has put matches on hold in England until July 1 at the earliest while in other countries the season is already over.

Despite the pandemic, the England and Wales Cricket Board is still planning to stage a full home international programme, starting with a three-Test series against the West Indies, which was originally scheduled for June.

(With PTI inputs)