In a bid to save its New Year fixture between India and Australia, the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust has offered to host the Brisbane Test too, if the Queensland government refuse to grant exemptions to the teams returning from New South Wales.
Cricket Australia (CA) was put on high alert earlier this month after an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in the northern beaches in Sydney, which is scheduled to host the third Test from January 7.
Even though the situation in northern beaches has improved, there are concerns that Queensland may close its border with New South Wales, which will mean players and broadcasting crews will not be able to travel from Sydney to Brisbane between the third and fourth Tests.
Under the circumstances, Melbourne, which will be hosting the Boxing Day fixture from December 26, has emerged as the frontrunner to host the third Test as well.
However, CA has asserted that the SCG remains its preferred venue for the third Test.
“We’ve made it very clear to Cricket Australia we’re flexible and would be very, very disappointed to lose the Sydney Test. And that’s with the support of the NSW government,” Shepherd said.
NSW had come to CA’s aid in October when, after lengthy discussions and negotiations, the Queensland’s health department denied the cricket body’s request to allow Indian and Australian players returning from the IPL to train while serving their 14-day quarantine.
“Sydney saved the day, the NSW government supported it, NSW is the cricket centre of Australia in terms of participation, players at the elite end and at the community level. We have the biggest Indian diaspora in Australia,” Shepherd said.
“The SCG is the most historic ground in Australia, second-most historic ground in the world. It’s a special place. The NSW government is very supportive of having the game, and will do everything we can to have it as a success,” Shepherd added.
A Queensland government source said that they are holding discussions with CA but hinted that the state will not review its border closure to Greater Sydney until January 8.
“Our priority is keeping Queenslanders safe and keeping transmission out of our community,” the spokesperson said.
“We have been able to relax internal restrictions sooner than other states because we have been cautious with our borders. Sport and recreation and Cricket Australia are currently in discussions with the Queensland government.”
India is set to face Australia in Melbourne in the second Test starting on Boxing Day. The hosts lead the four-match series 1-0 after their impressive eight-wicket win over India in Adelaide where they bowled out the visitors for 36 in their second innings.
With Australia needing to win the Test series to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, the third Test in Sydney could prove to be pivotal in determining the destination of the trophy.
India though has a poor record at both venues. The visitors have only won once at the SCG with their last and only victory at the venue coming way back in 1978. However, India have managed to draw their last two Test matches at the SCG.
At Brisbane however, India’s record is poorer with no wins for them in six attempts. India have lost on five occasions at the venue. The only occasion India avoided defeat was in 2003 when Sourav Ganguly hit a famous century to thwart the hosts.
(With PTI inputs)