South Africa blew deadlines as tour hung in balance
Australian citizens stranded overseas would have had their places in hotel quarantine taken by the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner if Cricket Australia agreed to travel to COVID-stricken South Africa.
CA's bombshell decision to abandon the Test series has fractured relations between the cricket boards, three years after the most explosive series ever played culminated in the sandpaper scandal.
Overseas reports have smashed CA for shifting the goalposts and then leaving Cricket South Africa (CSA) at the altar by walking away from negotiations at the last minute, despite Cricket South Africa allegedly moving heaven and earth to host the series.
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But CA powerbrokers believe their counterparts are attempting to rewrite history after CSA's gutted board blew several deadlines as the countries frantically attempted to sign off on biosecurity protocols.
The fate of the tour was supposed to be decided by January 22. But when that date passed with radio silence from CSA, an emergency meeting was called by CA the next day to try and sort out a long list of outstanding items, including how the Aussies would travel the 30km from Tambo airport in Johannesburg to their accommodation.
CA medicos ultimately recommended the tour should be scrapped, a decision which CA's board and the Australian Cricketers' Association reluctantly agreed with.
But poor feedback from England and Wales Cricket Board and Sri Lanka Cricket after their recent visits to South Africa added to CA's hesitance.
The ECB packed up and left mid-tour after South African players and hotel staff tested positive.
It is understood the ECB was alarmed by Proteas players hosting barbecue parties, disobeying social distancing rules and the coming and going of hotel workers.
CSA's interim board chairman Zak Yacoob said there was "no justification" for ECB leaving. Yacoob has since resigned after an inappropriate outburst at a journalist, adding to the upheaval at CSA.
CA was also yet to source a chartered flight, but was prepared to absorb the significant cost of paying for the plane.
CA was unconvinced that its accommodation would be COVID-safe, despite CSA declaring hotel staff at Irene Country Club had agreed to quarantine for three weeks beforehand, and it had started asking states if they would grant them passage back into Australia.
It is understood NSW came to the rescue, but that CA's tour party would be ordered into government quarantine and thereby taking spots off the public, unlike when CA paid its way by booking out a hotel following last year's Indian Premier League.
Australia's borders remain closed and returning passengers with travel exemptions are now required to test negative within 72 hours of departure.
The Aussies have postponed series against Bangladesh, South Africa, Zimbabwe, West Indies and Afghanistan while managing to travel to England and hosting India during the pandemic.
But CA is adamant the fate of every bilateral series was decided on merit, despite skepticism that the big three - Australia, England and India - are looking after each other and letting other nations bleed to death.
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley, the South African in charge of the Australian Open, said last week he would not travel to his home country.
"I've had family members that have had COVID-19, one twice, and so it's probably more prolific than has been reported," Tiley told ABC's Offsiders.
CA powerbrokers can't understand why they are being accused of turning their back on the series, given they have effectively eliminated themselves from the World Test Championship by deciding to stay home.
The WTC has been coach Justin Langer's No.1 goal for the past two years.
CA enlisted the help of medicos Peter Harcourt (AFL) and Cassy Workman (NRL) to put together its biosecurity protocols for the home summer and was left unimpressed at CSA's lack of detail by comparison.
The Future Tours Program has South Africa scheduled to travel to Australia in 2021-2022 for a T20 and ODI series and then again in 2022-2023 for a Test and ODI series.
There is no word yet on whether CSA's fury with CA could see them reluctant to travel.
Originally published as South Africa blew deadlines as tour hung in balance