Matthew Wade has affirmed that Australia are planning for the fourth Test to go ahead in Brisbane as scheduled. His comments on Sunday followed media reports that the Indian squad doesn't want to travel to Brisbane because of potentially stricter health protocols.
Though he said he had not heard about the Indians' stance from any official quarters, Wade told a press gathering, "We'd prefer not to (tweak the schedule). The schedule has been rolled out and we would prefer to stick to that. There was speculation about staying in Melbourne. CA [Cricket Australia] have been firm that we'll stick to the schedule that we rolled out at the start of the summer, so I would expect us to go to the Gabba regardless of if that's more of a quarantine-based hotel-ground-come home. We fully expect to be going to Brisbane to play the Gabba Test.
"It is what it is. Going into this summer, I copped some criticism for taking some time in the first half of the Shield season to spend time with my family because the reality was we didn't know what was going to happen going forward. It's not ideal, we'd all love to be running around outside as everyone in Australia would love to be doing that right now. We understand that we'll have to make some sacrifices to get this tour done. But I knew that coming in. We all knew we'd get some curveballs and this is just one of them."
If the series were to head to Queensland as planned, both teams would likely be put in a position where they only leave their hotel for training or the match itself because of the state's border being closed to Greater Sydney and exemptions being needed for them to enter. "If they come to Queensland after having been in declared hotspots, they will have to quarantine," Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said on Sunday. "These are people who are coming from Sydney and we are seeing, as late as yesterday, an unlinked case in Sydney. There is clearly transmission happening in the community down there. So we do need to have those arrangements firmly in place."
"For us as group we are going to Sydney, we'll play the SCG, then we'll go to Brisbane and play the Gabba until the powers that be knock on the door and tell us that's going to change."
Sections of the media had reported that sources within the Indian set-up mooted the suggestion of staying on in Sydney, the venue for the third Test, for the final game too. Five Indian players - Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini - are already in isolation in Melbourne as a precaution, pending an investigation into a social-media video that purportedly showed them eating in a Melbourne restaurant indoors.
"Perhaps if [Cricket Australia] had gone somewhere else [for the third Test] they wouldn't have had to quarantine when they came to Queensland," Young said. "That's a decision they have made. They have their reasons and I'm very, very happy to work with them."
The Indian players were in a bio-secure bubble in the UAE during the IPL, and endured a hard quarantine when they arrived in Australia, which made way which made way for another bubble but with loser restrictions. The Australians who were in the IPL and are also part of the Test squad have faced the same conditions, although some have been given short breaks.
"I'm sure there is [a concern] for some players, there's no difference to people coming home internationally and having to do hard quarantine," Wade said. "It's not an ideal situation. There's not much we can do about it, if that's what the government are going to make us do to play a game at the Gabba then we're willing to sacrifice. A lot of players knew it wasn't going to be an ideal situation and if something went south we'd have to make some more sacrifices along the way. As a group, we understand that, we are just keen to get started, get to Sydney then roll into Brisbane whatever that looks like.
"From my position and our position there is no uncertainty. There's a lot of talk out there, we understand that, but for us as group we are going to Sydney, we'll play the SCG, then we'll go to Brisbane and play the Gabba until the powers that be knock on the door and tell us that's going to change. It's out of our control."
For Australia, the Gabba is one of their favourite playing fields, where they haven't lost a Test since November 1988, when Viv Richards' West Indies beat them by nine wickets. Since then, there have been seven draws and 24 wins for the home side. The last Test India played in Brisbane, in December 2014, went the way of the home team too, by four wickets.
"There's no secret we like starting the summer there for that exact reason," Wade said. "Our record is very good there and we tend to play good cricket. India have a great bowling line-up and a great team, so we certainly won't take it for granted when we get there but we'd love to play at the Gabba.
"If it went two games back-to-back at the SCG it would not be something we'd want to do, we'd be much more comfortably playing the schedule as it rolls out. There's no secret we love the Gabba and want to get there."
The Indians are currently in Melbourne, where they won the second Test to level the series 1-1, and are expected to travel to Sydney on January 4 ahead of the third Test, starting January 7. They will travel to Brisbane after that on a chartered flight ahead of the final Test, slated to begin on January 15.