KNCB looking at pulling teams out of Southern Africa

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 22: Pieter Seelaar of Netherlands cuts a dejected figure following the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between Sri Lanka and Netherlands at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on October 22, 2021 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Although there have been some premature reports that the rest of the Super League series between South Africa and the Netherlands has been called off because of the rapid emergence in South Africa of the new ‘Omicron’ strain of Covid-19, KNCB chairman Jurgen Delfos clarified on Friday that no final decision has yet been taken.

‘We have not yet cancelled any matches,’ Delfos explained to Emerging Cricket, ‘but the situation is very fluid and is changing quickly.

‘We are aware that there will be repatriation flights from South Africa to enable Dutch citizens and residents to return home, and we are in touch with KLM in order to establish when it may be possible to leave.’

With the British government announcing its temporary suspension of flights from South Africa and several neighbouring countries, and other restrictions also being imposed by India, Israel, Singapore, Germany and the Czech Republic, there was a clear risk, not only that squad members could be exposed to the virulent new strain but that they could be trapped in South Africa.

The KNCB was initially looking at bringing the squad home on Friday night after the opening game of the three-match series, but on Friday morning the Dutch government announced that it was restricting flights from South Africa with effect from midday.

The Dutch squad has been in Pretoria for over a week, playing two warm-up games against a local Colts XI as well as Friday’s first Super League match.

They have been staying in a bubble at the Protea Hotel next door to the University of Pretoria, playing their second warm-up match at the nearby LC de Villiers Ground at the university.

‘We are satisfied with the bubble arrangements in Pretoria,’ said Delfos, ‘and if any additional precautions need to be taken we will ensure that that happens.

‘The players and support staff are familiar with bubble restrictions after the [Super League] series against Ireland and the T20 Cup in the United Arab Emirates.’

A decision will be taken in consultation with the players and coaching staff and with Cricket South Africa regarding the remaining matches in the series, dependent on the developing situation with respect to travel arrangements.

In a media release on Friday afternoon Cricket South Africa stated:

‘Cricket South Africa (CSA) and Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond (KNCB) are aware of news reports doing the rounds regarding the Netherlands tour to South Africa being cancelled or postponed. Both boards can confirm that following updated information, it is highly unlikely that the visiting team will be able to fly out of South Africa over the weekend.

The KNCB is reviewing all of its options, while prioritising the physical and mental well-being of its players. A decision on the continuation of the series will follow in the next 24 to 48 hours, while all flight options are being considered.’

The KNCB has also been dealing on Friday with the effect of the rapidly-developing crisis on the national women’s team, which is taking part in the Women’s World Cup Qualifier in neighbouring Zimbabwe, another country covered by the international travel restrictions.

‘That tournament is being run by the ICC,’ Delfos observed, ‘and we anticipate that they will be taking the necessary actions to safeguard the players and officials and to arrange repatriation flights.’

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