Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
Sydney and Canberra will serve as the starting points of India's tour of Australia next month, after Cricket Australia and the New South Wales state government knitted together a deal for the touring team and Australian players returning from the IPL to quarantine in Sydney while also being granted access to nearby training facilities.
Confirmation of quarantine protocols, which arrived after NSW government approval on Thursday but still require a final sign-off from the BCCI, will be a relief to all parties concerned. The first two ODIs on November 27 and 29 are set to be played at the SCG, the third ODI on December 1 and the first T20I on December 4 will take place at Canberra's Manuka Oval, before the teams return to Sydney for the final two T20Is at the SCG on December 6 and 8.
A pink-ball Test is scheduled to be held at Adelaide Oval between December 17-21, with Adelaide also the backup option for the Boxing Day Test should the Covid-19 situation not allow it to be held at the MCG. Otherwise Melbourne will be the venue for Boxing Day (December 26-30) followed by Tests in Sydney (January 7-11) and finally Brisbane (January 15-19).
CA and NSW were able to reach a quarantine and training agreement in a matter of days after interminable talks between CA and the Queensland state government and health department ran into a fifth week with no resolution in sight - largely due to the fact Queensland Health seemed reluctant to agree to allow quarantining cricketers and staff to travel from the central Brisbane hotel CA had chosen to be able to train at Allan Border Field in the suburb of Albion.
Instead, after rapid talks between CA, the NSW government, Destination NSW (chaired by the former Cricket NSW chairman John Warn) and the SCG Trust chaired by Tony Shepherd, the men's international season will commence in Sydney. Shepherd's interest in accommodating some extra cricket at the SCG arose more or less as soon as Sydney lost out to Brisbane for hosting the AFL Grand Final last month, although his initial thoughts were believed to be around stepping in to host the Boxing Day Test in place of a locked down Melbourne.
Shepherd's interest, alongside the SCG Trust chief executive Kerrie Mather, was aided by the fact that relationships between the Trust and Cricket NSW have improved immeasurably in recent times after years of frosty relations. The ground's standing in the eyes of CA, meanwhile, was raised enormously last summer when its staff worked around the clock to successfully stage both the Big Bash League final and the women's T20 World Cup semi-final in the face of wretched amounts of rain. The latter game ensured Australia would reach the showpiece decider at the MCG.
Provisions for quarantine in Sydney's Olympic Park, with Cricket NSW's ample training facilities nearby, had already been pulled together ahead of the WBBL being hosted entirely in Sydney, and the gridlock between CA and Queensland Health opened an opportunity. The NSW tourism minister, Stuart Ayres, a former sports minister in the state, was heavily involved in getting the process moving at a pace after CA formally submitted plans on Monday. The connection of government, cricket and business networks in NSW ultimately proved crucial.
Up to that point, CA had appeared to run afoul of circumstances in Queensland where the state government is less than two weeks away from an election, having kept its borders tight all year due to Covid-19. Though CA and the state government had already worked together on the successful staging of Australia's women's white-ball matches against New Zealand at Allan Border Field, there was far greater difficulty in approving arrivals from out of the IPL bubble in the UAE.
After the Western Australia state government blocked CA's initial approaches to start India's tour and also accommodate the Australian players returning home from the IPL in the UAE, the interim chief executive Nick Hockley had turned next to South Australia, whose state government allowed for the non-IPL component of the national white-ball squad to quarantine at the Adelaide Oval Hotel after the England tour.
This arrangement was thought to be ideal for India's tourists also, but the SA government then baulked at the possibility of being the first port of entry for a far bigger party of overseas tourists.