India pulls out of Zim tour

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HARARE – Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC)’s hopes of hosting a money-spinning ODI series against India were dashed after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) yesterday called off the tour due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Asian side was supposed to visit Zimbabwe in August for the limited overs series that would have boosted ZC’s coffers.

India is the second ranked ODI side in the world and with a huge fan base back home, the tour would have provided ZC with enormous rewards through broadcasting revenue and various other sponsorships associated with such a high profile series.

“The BCCI on Friday (yesterday) announced that the Indian cricket team will not travel to…Zimbabwe owing to the current threat of Covid-19,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a statement yesterday.

“The BCCI is determined to take steps towards the resumption of international and domestic cricket, but it will not rush into any decision that will jeopardise the efforts put in by the Central and State governments and several other respective agencies in containing the spread of the coronavirus.”

Together with the impending tour by Afghanistan, ZC was looking forward to the India series as the first two assignments after the coronavirus-induced break since March.

Earlier this week, ZC had already started preparations for the two tours, with the players selected in the provisional squad all undergoing coronavirus testing.

“The Covid-19 medical examinations are part of ZC’s efforts to guarantee the health of players and staff members as well as to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the deadly respiratory disease,” ZC spokesperson Darlington Majonga said in a statement.

“Cricket is one of the low-risk sporting disciplines that have been allowed to resume activities that, for now, are only limited to training.

“Subject to government approval, ZC is planning to host Afghanistan and India for limited-overs series between July and August.”

At least 33 players called into camp for the intended tours will be grouped in small clusters as a way of adhering to the social distancing requirements.

“The players will be split into small groups of not more than eight and they will practice in their respective provinces, starting with strength and conditioning sessions for the first three weeks before focusing on cricket-specific skills training,” Majonga added.

“To ensure that the risks associated with the cricket environment — field of play, training venue, changing rooms, equipment and management of the ball — have been mitigated before any training session or match, ZC has also put in place other preventive and containment measures that will be strictly observed.

“Only one entrance will be used at each training venue and at that entrance there will be a mandatory temperature check on every player and support staff — if temperature is higher than the announced standard, the player or official will be immediately referred to the nearest testing facility and excluded from training until they provide negative test results,” Majonga said.

All players and support staff, as well as the other ZC employees are being provided with personal protective equipment in the form of face masks, tissues, wipes and alcohol-based sanitisers.

The use of saliva to shine the ball will be prohibited, while there will also be no sharing of personal and sports equipment and wear, towels or containers such as water bottles and cups.”

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