Arun Dhumal says IND-SA tour on but ‘Decision only after considering player safety’

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) treasurer Arun Dhumal on Saturday said that the board is in regular touch with Cricket South Africa (CSA) regarding the upcoming bilateral series and how player safety needs to be ensured looking at the new COVID-19 variant which has emerged in South Africa.

The World Health Organisation on Friday sounded an alarm among countries after a new variant of COVID-19 was classified in South Africa, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said in a statement.

“There is nothing to say as of now. Both boards are regularly in touch. Player safety and their health is paramount for both boards. We are monitoring the situation closely, as soon as both teams feel there is anything that needs to be done, they will take a call,” Dhumal told ANI.

“See, keeping in mind the health and safety of the players, whatever needs to be done will be done. Whether crowds are allowed or not, that is secondary. First priority is for the games to happen,” he added.

India is slated to tour South Africa next month for three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is. The tour is slated to begin on December 17.

Earlier, Anurag Thakur, the Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports said that BCCI should consult the government before sending the cricket team to South Africa where a new COVID-19 variant has emerged.

“Not only BCCI, but every board should also consult the Indian government before sending the team to a country where a new COVID-19 variant has emerged. It is not right to send the team to a country where there is a threat, if BCCI consults us we will deliberate on that,” Thakur had told ANI here in Baghpat.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as ‘Omicron’.

This came after the WHO held a meeting to discuss the newly-identified COVID-19 variant.

“The recently discovered variant of coronavirus B.1.1.529 is of concern. It has more mutations than science knows about other alarming variants. The WHO has assessed this new variant as worrisome,” the statement said.

This variant has been labelled as B.1.1.529 by scientists. WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said after the meeting that early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study.