Sydney’s controversial plan to steal Gabba Test
NSW has launched an audacious 11th hour bid to claim not one but two India-Australia Tests for Sydney this summer - including a pink ball affair.
Cricket Australia's summer now hinges on critical discussions with the Queensland Cricket Australia's summer now hinges on critical discussions taking place with the Queensland Government over the coming 24-48 hours about whether it would entertain the prospect of granting exemptions to cricket teams and broadcast staff in the event the border to NSW remains closed after January 8.
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Cricket bosses are desperate for the current fixture to go ahead as scheduled with a third Test in Sydney and fourth Test in Brisbane. But the only way it can is if they get some assurances about the ability to cross from NSW into Queensland.
Still the most likely alternative if CA fails to get the assurances it seeks, is that Melbourne takes custody of Sydney's Test, and for the MCG to host back-to-back Boxing Day and New Year's Tests, before heading to Brisbane for the series finale.
A double dose in Melbourne remains the short-priced favourite at Sydney's expense and sources say a final decision must be made by Boxing Day at the latest, although the call could come on Thursday.
But despite declaring they would not consider reopening the border until January 8, sources said there was a glimmer of renewed hope last night that Queensland had not completely shut the door on listening to what CA has to say.
However, there was another daring contingency plan thrown into the mix on Wednesday by NSW Cricket and NSW Government officials.
The push from NSW is for CA to prioritise holding the Sydney Test as planned, and then if the Queensland border fails to open - letting the SCG host the fourth Test as well, stripping Brisbane of their fixture.
It is based on a feeling that CA has a sense of gratitude to NSW for saving the cricket summer back in November by allowing the Indian and Australian teams to quarantine, when Queensland refused.
Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust Chairman Tony Shepherd declined to comment on the NSW push for two Tests but said the State would deliver if trusted with the New Year's Test.
"NSW has been very supportive of cricket," said Shepherd.
"Sydney is safe, the Indian team will be well catered for and the local Indian residents will love it."
News Corp understands NSW's discussions with CA heavies centred around a proposed fourth Test at the SCG being a pink ball affair.
However, there are major obstacles to the unlikely bid.
One is SCG curators would have only three days to turn around the ground's traditional square for another Test match - an unprecedented turnaround, but perhaps not completely impossible.
The second issue is the bi-lateral tour agreement between India and Australia was signed off before the tour, and CA would need agreement from the BCCI to play a second pink ball Test.
Given how reluctant India were to even play one in Adelaide, it would be a shock, particularly given the first pink ball Test was over in two and a half days. Although India probably wouldn't be shedding too many tears about missing out on playing at the bouncy Gabba, while a Sydney fourth Test could also be a traditional red ball game too.
However, the biggest issue would be that Queensland Cricket and the cricket fans of Brisbane would be punished by having a Test taken off them, even when there is no COVID-19 issue in their State.
The intriguing sub-plot to the Sydney Test saga is that CA has not forgotten what NSW did to save the summer and are exhausting every possible avenue to make the Sydney Test happen.
They know full well that the Queensland Government let them down badly, stringing them along for weeks thinking everything was hunky dory quarantining the Indians and Aussies coming back from Dubai, until pulling the pin on the eve of the State election.
However, the feeling amongst cricket sources is that taking a Test off Brisbane would still seem an extreme reaction, and the favoured contingency plan is still to have two Tests in Melbourne and a finale at the Gabba.
Sydney's chances hinge almost entirely on the Queensland border reopening or exceptions being made, but the longer CA holds off on their decision, the more hope the SCG might get as case numbers continue to drop.
"I know that Cricket Australia is doing everything in their power to ensure the third Test match is in Sydney," said Australian spinner, Nathan Lyon.
"Hopefully all things go well up in Sydney and more importantly a lot of people stay safe and get well, and fingers crossed our Test match can be at the SCG."
Originally published as Sydney's controversial plan to steal Gabba Test