Black Caps’ Australia tour postponed over New Zealand’s hard quarantine norms

It could not guarantee relaxation in mandatory hard quarantine upon return of players back home

The Black Caps’ white-ball tour of Australia scheduled to start from January 30 has been postponed indefinitely after the New Zealand government could not guarantee relaxation in mandatory hard quarantine upon return of players back home in view of COVID-related restrictions.

The tour comprising three ODIs and one Twenty20 International was scheduled to be played between January 30 and February 8, but it now stands postponed until further notice as there is no guarantee as to when the players could return to New Zealand.

A change of stance from the New Zealand government to impose a hard 10-day mandatory quarantine in response to the Omicron wave of COVID-19 infections meant New Zealand Cricket could not secure guarantees that the Black Caps players would be allowed back into the country.

"The BLACKCAPS tour of Australia, initially scheduled for January 24-February 9, has been postponed until further notice, due to the lack of certainty over when the squad would be able to return to New Zealand," the country’s cricket board said in a statement.

The players were originally scheduled to depart on Monday. No tour squad had been announced.

No managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) spots had been booked for the players and team management when the tour was confirmed last year, in anticipation of quarantine-free travel between the two countries in February.

"Despite a proposal from New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Australia to extend the length of the tour so that the BLACKCAPS could return home at a time more manageable for the MIQ process, the Government confirmed today it had no capacity to meet the request," the NZC added.

Discussions are now continuing with Cricket Australia over when the postponed fixtures will be played.

NZC and Cricket Australia officials had discussed the possibility of rescheduling the matches to push back the date the Black Caps would be looking to return home in the hope of either an easing of restrictions or increased availability in spots in the country’s overburdened managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system.

NZC chief executive David White said the tour was initially scheduled last year, after the Government signalled its intention to relax MIQ restrictions relating to the trans-Tasman border.

“As we now know, the advent of Omicron prompted a change of strategy from the Government, resulting in a hard 10-day mandatory isolation period being imposed on all incoming travellers,” said White.

“NZC and CA had explored a proposal to expand the tour and to push out the date on which the squad might return to New Zealand, in the hope that might be more achievable for the Government.

“But we received advice this morning that they could not provide certainty over this, either,” he added.

The New Zealand government delayed the planned reopening of the country’s borders late last year as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surged around the world.

On Tuesday night, the government also announced a pause on new MIQ slots, effectively shutting the border to anyone without a reservation.

It is the third successive summer that Australia and New Zealand have had white-ball fixtures postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.

According to reports, South Africa’s tour of New Zealand next month, however, remains on track with MIQ spots already booked for the tour party. The two Tests are scheduled for Christchurch from February 17 and Wellington from February 25.

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