Cricketing fans gearing up for a action packed Friday, filled with international cricket, were dealt a major blow as the CSA Medical Chief, Shuaib Manjra, delivered some bad news at an online press conference on Thursday. Manjra revealed that any further Covid-positive tests could lead to the first T20I international between England and South Africa being called off.
The two teams are currently staying in Cape Town Hotel. None of the players in the England squad have contracted the virus but the South African squad did have a couple of positive cases. A member of the Proteas squad tested positive before they went into the bubble and one afterwards. Two others players in close contact with one of the infected players have been placed in isolation.
“If you’ve got lots of positives you’ve got a quarantine context,” Manjra said. “We cannot bring in a player from the outside without testing them at least twice before we bring them into this space. If a large group of people test positive we wouldn’t have adequate opportunity to bridge people into the bio-bubble. But we’ve got a squad of 24. Hopefully we can put a team together,” Manjra added.
The South African contingent was tested for the 4th round on Thursday morning, and the results are expected to be out by evening. “We tested on Tuesday, and it was stressful,” Manjra said. “You can imagine what the consequences would have been should we have had a positive test. Thankfully all the results came back negative. But you can imagine the stress you go through waiting to find out. Yesterday and Tuesday players were asking every five minutes when their results were coming back.”
The names of the players who have tested positive for the virus, cannot be revealed unless they do it themselves. One particular player in the Proteas squad has been in significant stress after testing positive, and is not being able to cope up after isolating himself.
“The dynamic is very different for the player who tested positive within the bubble. We could place the player in what we call a red zone, so there’s no contact. But because he was already part of the bubble there was some degree of limited contact with other players,” Manjra said.
“That had an impact, because then we had to separate players into contacts and non-contacts, and the contacts into smaller groups. In the event that somebody tested positive we could isolate a small group of people rather than the entire contact or non-contact group. That had a role to play in the dynamic of the team in terms of training, dining and socialising.”
The South African team will take to the field for the first time in over 9 months after the coronavirus induced lockdown disrupted the regular schedule. Manjra particularly noted the injury concerns a few players might face having been out of action for majority of the year.
“We were concerned when we had a long lockdown,”Manjra said. “We had to have a six-week lag period for players to get back to fitness. In the English Premier League the injury rates went up by 200% post-Covid. That was a cause of concern for us. If you don’t pass your fitness test you’re not considered for selection, simple as that. We set rigid criteria, and all the players passed their fitness test,”Manjra continued.
Manjra spoke about the psychological consequences of the entire lockdwon situation and being in the bubble for long periods of times. Cricket South Africa has taken plenty of steps to provide psychological support to the players.” SACA realised the consequences of being in the bubble for a long time,”Manjra said.
“The guys who’ve been at the IPL have been in a bubble for 11 weeks. Faf [du Plessis] went directly from the IPL to Pakistan, so he’s been in a bubble for 12 weeks. That takes a huge mental toll. ‘KG’ [Kagiso Rabada] has called it a luxury prison. It’s not a bad environment, but being locked down takes its toll on you,”said Manjra.
Cricket fans would be hoping that they could witness a full-fledged T20I series between South Africa and England, which is due to commence from tomorrow.