Less than 24 hours after it said the remainder of the home ODI series between India and South Africa would be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, the BCCI on Friday decided to call off the matches in Lucknow (March 15) and Kolkata (March 18) for now. A BCCI statement said both they and CSA had decided to "reschedule" the series and that South Africa would visit India at a later date to play three ODIs, with a revised schedule.
"The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) along with Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Friday announced to reschedule the ongoing ODI series in view of the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak," the BCCI said in a media release on Friday. "Cricket South Africa will visit India at a later date to play 3 One-day Internationals. The BCCI-CSA will jointly work out the revised schedule."
The statement seemed to suggest that the two teams would play a fresh set of three ODIs even though technically the first ODI had been completed in this series, though it was a washout without a ball being bowled in Dharamsala.
Rescheduling the ongoing series was the second significant decision about Indian cricket that the BCCI made on Friday, having earlier deferred the IPL until April 15.
The rescheduling of the ODI series is likely to have come as a surprise to even the Indian and South African teams, considering the BCCI had sent out the practice schedule for both teams for Saturday less than an hour before the board's decision. As per the training schedule, India were to have an optional training session between 10.00 am to 1.00 pm in the morning, with South Africa's session from 2.00 pm in the afternoon.
In a later release, CSA said chief executive Jacques Faul and interim director of cricket Graeme Smith had both personally been in contact with the BCCI and "expressed their gratitude for their understanding and cooperation in arriving at this very responsible decision". Faul added that CSA was also doing a risk-assessment of its ongoing domestic season.
"Our view is that this decision is both necessary and a precaution that had to be taken in the interest of cricket and the sustainability of the game," Faul said. "We are monitoring the situation with the virus and are in constant consultation with medical and virology experts. We will apply our minds to the input of experts and act in a way that reflects our duty of caring for our players. We are currently doing a full risk assessment on the influence of the virus on our operations, including the current domestic season."
On Thursday, the BCCI had said that it had consulted the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare as well as the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports before deciding to conduct the last two ODIs without spectators. The Health Ministry and the Indian government had said they were strongly against mass gatherings of any kind, including at a sporting event such as a cricket match. On Friday, the Uttar Pradesh government, the state of which Lucknow is the capital city, also endorsed those guidelines.
In the first ODI washout, a healthy crowd had turned up despite government authorities asking fans not to attend mass gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.