“Win a trip to the Gold Coast” is perhaps an otherwise popular tourist ad slogan we’re unlikely to see for the summer of 2020. It could, however, well end up as a reality for some Indian players currently in the UAE. For it seems likely that Virat Kohli & Co will play the second leg of the white-ball segment of their Australian tour in Queensland’s renowned beach destination after starting off in the state capital.
According to sources, a 58-member Indian contingent, which includes players and team management staff, is expected to disembark next month in Brisbane, where they will quarantine for two weeks. And with spots up for grabs in what’s expected to be a bloated multi-format squad, there’s plenty of incentive for those on the fringes of India’s white-ball set-ups, in particular, to push their respective cases over the next few weeks of the IPL.
Like with everything else regarding the much-awaited arrival of the Indian team to these shores, even this comes with a rider though. Even as they continue to face pressure from the broadcasters, Cricket Australia maintain that they’re only waiting for clearances and exemptions from the Australian government to announce the full schedule, which will include four Tests following three ODIs and three T20Is. And it is still unclear what format the two teams will start their two-month-long tussle with.
Considering the Indians and most of the Australians who’ll be part of the limited-overs games will be coming from the IPL, it would be ideal to begin with the T20Is. But CA would want the Gabba in Brisbane to play host to the ODIs, especially with crowds in limited numbers expected to attend these games. The Metricon Stadium in the Gold Coast has after all played host to only a solitary international game to date – a T20I against South Africa in 2018. So, there’s a possibility that the tourists will end up having to get into a 50-over mindset before jumping back to regain the T20 momentum they’ll land in Australia with. But again, we’ll only find out when the fixtures are officially confirmed, which could happen as early as on Friday (October 9) or could stretch to next week. For now, even Gold Coast remains a maybe with some reports suggesting that the T20Is may be played in Adelaide.
What is confirmed for now is that the tour will go ahead and that CA are pulling all stops to make sure it does so without any hiccups. The venues for the four Tests also seem more or less finalised. The series is set to begin with a day-night pink-ball Test at the Adelaide Oval starting on December 17. This will in all likelihood be preceded by a warm-up game under lights, which like was the case with visiting teams in England will be an intra-squad match.
With Victoria somewhat beginning to turn the tide against the second wave of the pandemic – 11 new cases were reported on Thursday (October 8) – the Boxing Day Test might still stay at the MCG. Adelaide of course is in line to take over if state travel restrictions between Victoria and the other eastern states stay in place. Most of the other state borders, not deemed to be hotspots, have begun opening their doors to each other. For now, South Australia is the most welcoming, having opened its borders to all but Victoria and Western Australia, who for now have isolated themselves from the rest of the country. Perth in fact is unlikely to see any cricket this summer with some reports indicating that WA will keep its borders tightly secured till April 2021.
NSW, meanwhile, recorded 12 new cases over Wednesday and Thursday after having seen 12 straight days of zero additions. The third Test of the India series though is still slated to be at the SCG even if some reports in the local press have suggested that the BCCI has asked for it to be pushed back from its traditional start date of January 3 to four days later. That would leave the tour finishing where it started in Brisbane, which will host the fourth and final Test, expected to conclude on January 19, 2021.
The only other given is that the series will be played in a bio-secure setting and the players will have to endure the bubble life that’s become such an integral part of their touring lives currently. The way the overall situation in Australia with regards to the pandemic stands at the moment, Kohli & Co might get away without a hard-line quarantine, which should allow them to train even if only in smaller groups.
As for the rest, including that elusive trip to the Gold Coast, the speculation is likely to continue till there’s actually no need for there to be any.