JOHANNESBURG – The challenges of living, training and working in a bio bubble, may be restrictive, but Proteas head coach, Mark Boucher said it was imperative that the national players make the necessary sacrifices to ensure cricket is played in South Africa.
Boucher said the recent concerns expressed about playing in South Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic, following the early exit by England, was not something that bothered him. “There’s people who’ve been put in place to do certain jobs. My job is coaching the team,” Boucher said, ever pragmatically. “It’s not my job to control the bio secure environment, it’s not my job to speak to England or Sri Lanka to see how they are feeling.”
South Africa is scheduled to face Sri Lanka in the first of two Tests at SuperSport Park on Saturday. The series is being played under extremely strict restrictions given Covid-19 pandemic, with no crowds allowed and very limited access for media.
England left the country without playing the One-Day Internationals citing concerns about the bio-secure environment that had been set up for both teams in Cape Town. Criticism was directed at CSA by former England captain Michael Vaughan, who said no teams would want to tour South Africa, while in Australia, which is scheduled to tour here in February, various figures have adopted a wait and see approach about that trip.
Boucher’s forthright approach is similar to that of his Australian counterpart Justin Langer, whose team is still awaiting confirmation on whether the third Test with India will take place in Sydney, where there’s been a spike in Covid-19 cases recently. “What I’ve learned over the last nine months is we can only control what we can control,” Langer said, “and if you get distracted by things that are completely out of your control you’ll literally go mad.”
Sri Lanka’s authorities had initially had concerns about touring South Africa, but earlier this week, their coach Mickey Arthur said he was very impressed with the measures that CSA had put in place to create a bio-secure environment. Speaking Thursday, the Sri Lankan captain, Dimuth Karunaratne said his team was just looking forward to playing again. “We are not really thinking about the Covid thing, we just want to get onto the field and play some cricket,” Karunaratne remarked. “We haven’t played international cricket for nine months, so we are just excited to play the series.”
Boucher said it is critical that the Proteas take to the field on Saturday. “Do I want to play cricket? Absolutely.There is no cricket going on in South Africa at the moment which is disturbing.”
“As a coach I want the guys to play, if we have to go through hoops, albeit strict things to play a game of cricket, then we have to do it and I will certainly drive that from a coaching perspective.”
Both the Sri Lankan and South African teams are staying in a bio secure environment at the Irene Country Lodge in Centurion, which Boucher described as being “very comfortable.”
“There’s a nice big dam here. The guys have been doing a bit of fishing. I always like to fish with a mate next to me, but we can’t do that.”
“There’s a golf simulator that’s been set up for us…it’s quite irritating that Centurion Lakes and Irene (Country Club) is right next door to us, but we can’t get onto. But these are the things we need to do to get some cricket.”