Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley believes that the absence of Virat Kohli from the major part of India's Test series in Australia will not have any financial implications for the board even considering how much attention India's captain attracts. Kohli is set to miss three of the four Tests in order to fly back home to attend the birth of his first child, and Hockley said he respected that decision.
"I think the first thing is that we're delighted for Virat and Anushka [Sharma, his wife] for the imminent birth of their child," Hockley said in an interaction with the Indian media. "We respect Virat's decision and the BCCI to grant him leave. We're just delighted he'll be here to captain the side for the ODIs and the T20Is and the first Test. He'll bring competitive leadership that we've seen before and have become accustomed to watching. I don't think his absence will have a financial bearing."
With international cricket finally resuming in Australia after all the months of inaction due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Hockley termed India's tour as one of "great importance" to CA. There were multiple staff cuts in the lead-up to the home summer, with apprehensions of massive financial losses, with Afghanistan having to lose out on an opportunity to play a Test match in Australia.
"This series is of great importance to world cricket and Australian cricket," Hockley said. "One of the features of the pandemic has been how the international cricket community has supported each other. Even we had travelled to England in September, and we are extremely grateful to the BCCI to make this tour happen.
"This is a testament to all countries that we've got international cricket back up and running. Australia have been extremely fortunate that we've managed the Covid-19 situation very well, and I'm excited that the [India] series will be played in front of crowds."
Playing while managing life in a bubble for a lengthy period of time poses its own challenges, and numerous international cricketers - including the Australia opener David Warner - have expressed concern over the long-term feasibility of playing cricket in these circumstances. And so far as its financial implications are concerned, Hockley revealed that the board has had to spend millions to maintain a biosecure bubble that contains a large contingent of players and staff.
"We're taking precautions and using charter planes," he said. "We had an endeavour of movement of the returning IPL players from the UAE. But precautions and measures have run into several million dollars."
But Hockley also accepted how difficult it has been for players to sustain lives in isolation. Some of Australia's players travelled to England for a two-week tour that involved quarantine before it began, and then flew directly to the UAE to remain in another bubble for nearly two months during the IPL. The series against India, and more life in bubbles, came immediately after.
"We're extremely fortunate with limited cases [of Covid-19] and negligible community transmission," Hockley said of the current state of the pandemic in the country. "We've worked hard to put the best possible conditions. There is an outdoor gym for India and the returning Australian IPL players. The safety of all participants is our number one priority. We're working closely with the BCCI and working hard to provide the best possible conditions."
Despite all the arrangements and the facilities across Australia, there remains the possibility of an unprecedented outbreak taking place while the India series is on. But Hockley said CA had adequate cover "to ensure there are rescues in case of outbreaks".
"There has been a negligible community transmission in Australia, and more cases have been attached to the return of visitors from other countries," he said. "We're confident the work of our medical experts will mitigate that risk."
Hockley sounded positive about the pandemic's situation in Australia and was confident of the arrangements that CA has made to host India smoothly.
"Depending on the situation in each city, what I can say is that from our initial risk ratings, it's very low," Hockley said when asked about the protocols and the arrangements for all the players and staff. "[There's] no or negligible community transmission; Melbourne now has 28 days of zero community transmission. The protocols are clear - [maintain] social distancing - and we're making sure we have secure, separate areas."
The tour begins with the first of three ODIs in Sydney on November 27. The ODIs will be followed by three T20Is and four Tests.