Cape Town, Nov 30 (IANS): The South African government has given full assurance to the Indian government and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that the Indian cricket teams touring the country would be provided the best "bio-secure environment" to ensure the safety of players from the fast-spreading Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The Omicron variant, which was reportedly first detected in South Africa, has spread to many parts of the world, and several nations are pulling down shutters, suspending flights to and from the country to slow the spread of the new variant. The Omicron variant is said to be more contagious and has been classified as a "Variant of Concern".
The India 'A' team is currently in Bloemfontein and playing the second unofficial Test against South Africa which commenced on Tuesday. The last Test will commence on December 6.
The India senior team is scheduled to fly to South Africa after the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai. The side will begin their gruelling tour with the Test in Johannesburg from December 17, followed by the Centurion and Cape Town Tests. Following the three-Test series, India will play three ODI and four T20Is, and the tour will conclude on January 26.
A statement issued by the South African International Relations and Cooperation Department late on Monday night (IST) said, "The South African Government wishes to welcome the Indian 'A' Cricket Team that is currently in South Africa to play three unofficial Test matches against the South African 'A' Team.
"The Indian National Cricket Team is also scheduled to visit South Africa and will play three games during their tour. The first will be played at the Wanderers and will start on 17 December, to be followed by the second match at Supersport Park on 26 December 2021 and the third match at Newlands on 3 January 2022.
"Whilst in South Africa the team will also play three One Day International games (ODIs) and four T20 matches, which will all be played at Newlands and Paarl," said the statement.
"South Africa will take all precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of the Indian teams. A full Bio-secure environment will be established around both the South African and Indian 'A' Teams as well as the two National Teams. The tour of the Indian National Team marks the 30th anniversary of South Africa's readmission to international cricket. In 1991, India became the first country to host a South African Cricket Team after South Africa was banned from international cricket in 1970 by the International Cricket Council (ICC), following a resolution taken against the then South African Government's apartheid policy.
"The anniversary will be celebrated by a commemorative event that will take place on 2 January 2022 in Cape Town. This event will also serve to highlight the strong ties between South Africa and India, which is once again demonstrated by the tour of the two Indian teams," said the statement.
The Netherlands cricket team is set to return home from South Africa after the opening ODI of the three-match series following identification of the new Covid variant in the country.
"India's decision to show solidarity by choosing to continue with the tour of the Indian 'A' Team stands in contrast with a number of countries who have decided to close their borders and to restrict travel from Southern African after South Africa announced the detection of the new Omicron variant. The South African Government has expressed its appreciation to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for allowing the tour to continue and for not letting travel restrictions negatively impact on international sports," the statement said.