Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent and George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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South Africa's return to cricket will be delayed with the 3TC competition unable to take place on June 27 as planned. The one-off exhibition match, which was due to feature three different teams in the same game, is yet to be given the green light by the South African government.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo, when the event was launched on Wednesday, Cricket South Africa had not yet obtained approval from South Africa's sports ministry. This remains the case to date. CSA now also needs permission from the country's department of health because they intend to play the match in Centurion, which is located in one of the worst-affected provinces by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Because it is an activity played in a hotspot, it needs to be referred to the department of health. We will have to be delayed," Jacques Faul, CSA's acting CEO told ESPNcricinfo.
A senior source conceded that CSA acted prematurely in announcing a date for this event, especially in the light of director of cricket Graeme Smith's insistence that all boxes had been ticked. "Everything has been handled. It's been cleared. The medical team are driving everything, and everything has been okayed," Smith had said on Wednesday.
But that is only likely to be the case in the coming weeks as the South Africa government plots the country's gradual re-opening. South Africa is still in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is currently on Level 3 of 5, with Level 5 being the most severe. Under this level, players of non-contact sports have been given permission to train and play but any sporting federation wanting to do likewise must submit detailed plans to the government, including plans around player testing, the waiting period for results and the cleaning of sporting venues.
ESPNcricinfo understands that CSA has already tested players and officials, and have submitted detailed plans around this event to the sports ministry. However, they also now need to submit further documentation to the health ministry and are unsure of how long the delay will be. One insider said CSA expects to be given the go-ahead in a matter of weeks.
But questions around CSA's rush to return to action remain, especially considering the circumstances. South Africa's players are yet to get approval for training and they in mid-winter, which is the off-season for cricket. South Africa are also not scheduled to host any games until at least August when India are due for three T20Is. That trip will depend on the status of the pandemic in both countries at that time, and with the number of cases still rising in South Africa and expected to peak in July-August, it is not unthinkable that the series could be postponed to a later date this year or even to 2021.
CSA would like to ensure that India tour the country before the end of the current financial year to bolster their bank balance to the tune of US$10 million. The men's team have had a June white-ball series in Sri Lanka postponed and their two-Test, five-T20I visit to the Caribbean (scheduled to begin in July) is also set to be moved.
CSA's insistence on playing now appears to be driven by the presence of certain corporations, in particular shareholders of the 3TC competition. The mobile data company, Rain, is sponsoring the exhibition event, thereby sending money into CSA's newly-created Hardship Fund, which seeks to help those in the cricket industry who have fallen on hard times because of the pandemic.