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India's tour of South Africa has been given the go-ahead by the two boards, but only for the three Tests and three ODIs as part of a rejigged tour. The four T20Is that were also part of the original schedule will be played later. A CSA release on Saturday morning local time further said the dates and venues for the tour were set to change as the Indian team's arrival in South Africa, originally scheduled for December 8 or 9, had been delayed by a week.*
ESPNcricinfo has learned that the first Test will now begin on December 26 in Centurion, the second from January 3 in Johannesburg and the third from January 11 or 12 in Cape Town, which will also host all three ODIs.
As per the original schedule, the Tests were to start on December 17, 26 and January 3 in Johannesburg, Centurion and Cape Town respectively, followed by the three ODIs on January 11, 14 and 16.
There has been a lot of doubt around the tour to South Africa because of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, in the country that has led to a surge in cases and hospitalisations, especially in the Gauteng province where India are scheduled to play the first two Tests.
"With the Proteas men's team having already participated in no less than eight international cricket BSEs, CSA is pleased to announce that this tour will also take place under the strictest Covid-19 guidelines, as contained in the BSE protocols," the CSA release said.
"CSA is also pleased to confirm that the allocation of match venues will still be in respect of the Bubble Safe Environment (BSEs) and therefore the decision on the allocations will take into account the need for safer playing environments. CSA has instituted these world-class standards and measures to ensure that all players, staff and officials are protected within this environment. CSA's main focus is to safeguard the cricket biosphere by managing strict entry standards and limited movement outside of its cordon. CSA will confirm the venues in the next 48 hours."
The Netherlands team had recently cut short their tour of three ODIs after playing the first game in Centurion, before they flew back home as many countries, especially from the European Union, imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa.
CSA had also postponed three games of round four of Division 2 four-day matches after some players tested positive. The one-day matches due to take place on December 16 were also pushed back to 2022.
The India A team has, however, stayed back for their three four-day games in Bloemfontein. The second of those concluded on Friday and the third is set to begin on Monday.
India captain Virat Kohli had said on the eve of the ongoing Test against New Zealand in Mumbai that it was natural for such a tour to involve a lot of planning and preparation.
"Look, it is pretty natural [for them to wonder and worry and talk about whether the tour will go ahead and what the protocols will be]," Kohli had said on Thursday. "We are not playing in normal times anyway. So there is a lot of planning that is involved, a lot of preparation that is involved in terms of understanding exactly what is going to go on. There are players who are not part of the group right now who will be entering quarantine to join the team bubble to fly in a charter."
When exactly the BCCI and CSA agree to play the four T20Is remains to be seen as another T20 World Cup is approaching in 2022, and both teams already have packed schedules for the coming year.
*0903hrs GMT: The story was updated after CSA issued a press release about the tour