Australian skipper Tim Paine says he is not concerned about the possibility of play being lost at the Sydney Test due to poor air quality, but admits that if conditions get too smoky, players will have to come off the SCG.
- Any decision on whether to stop play due to bushfire smoke or haze will be made by ICC match referee Richie Richardson
- However Cricket Australia has been speaking to officials and the ICC over smoke protocols
- Two ODI matches between Australia and New Zealand in March will raise funds for the Australian Red Cross to help those affected by bushfires
The final match in Australia’s series against New Zealand will be played amid a continuing bushfire emergency in New South Wales.
A series of blazes on New Year’s Eve on the state’s South Coast led to seven deaths and the destruction of hundreds of homes. Huge fires are also raging across the border in eastern Victoria.
Conditions are expected to deteriorate on Saturday, with 40 degree Celsius temperatures and high winds, including the Western Sydney area.
While no fires are expected in the vicinity of the SCG, if smoke reaches the ground and visibility or air quality becomes an issue, play could be stopped.
That final decision would rest with ICC match referee and former West Indian Test great Richie Richardson and the umpires, based on monitoring of air quality readings.
“At the moment I’m not [concerned], but we’re lucky that in the Australian set-up we’ve got world-class doctors and people that are put in place to make those decisions,” Paine told reporters at the SCG.
“As a playing group we’re just focusing on what we can control, which is going out and playing, and we’ll be doing that until we’re told otherwise.
“I’ve been given a sort of rough guide, but basically when it gets smoky, we’re coming off.
“Our doc I think is having a pretty big say in reading the levels of air quality and stuff like that so I think it’s all set, we know the number. If it happens it happens, and unfortunately that’s life.”
Although Richardson has the final say, Cricket Australia will have heavy involvement and has been communicating with match officials and the ICC over smoke protocols.
Cricket Australia has vowed not to put players, officials and fans at risk.
Doctors will be told to provide officials with feedback from players, particularly if they are having difficulty breathing or experience sore eyes.
“We won’t be putting the players’ health at risk, nor will we be putting the health of match officials, fans at the match or our own employees at risk,” CA boss Kevin Roberts said.
“That is something we will be monitoring consistently through the five days’ play. It’s a day-by-day proposition.
“We’ve been working closely with the ICC and working with the Environment Department in NSW as well.
“It’s fair to say it’s a collaborative exercise and we will continue to take advice from the experts.”
A Big Bash League Twenty20 match has already been called off this summer because of smoke haze and conditions deemed unhealthy for players.
Part of the challenge is the range in air quality guidelines, with the NSW Government determining a reading of 200 as hazardous and the ICC having that level at 300.
Australian officials have previously implemented a heat policy in first-class cricket, and will aim to have more frameworks around air quality implemented for next season.
“If we have smoke delays that even go collectively for as long as a day then we can still fit in the amount of overs over the course of the match,” Roberts said.
“We need to be treating this like rain delays, but smoke delays. That was a simple piece of wisdom to come out of (preparations).
“It was incumbent of us to understand the risks, what alternatives we have to deal with those risks.”
Play can be extended by half an hour on the day of any delay, and by half an hour on any subsequent day to make up time.
The New Zealand touring side has another health issue ahead of the match, with skipper Kane Williamson and teammate Henry Nicholls missing training for the second day running due to flu-like symptoms.
The Black Caps’ Tom Latham said Williamson was expected to play.
However, late on Thursday, the New Zealand team announced that Auckland batsman Glenn Phillips was being flown in as cover for the third Test, in case Williamson and/or Nicholls were unavailable.
ODIs to be used to raise funds for bushfire victims
Cricket Australia announced that on day one, players from both teams would wear black armbands and would pay tribute to those fighting the fires during the anthem ceremony.
This will be followed by a minute’s applause.
While fundraising at the Sydney Test — also known as the Pink Test — will as usual go towards the McGrath Foundation, CA and the SCG Trust say the two-match ODI series between Australia and New Zealand in March will be dedicated to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross in support of those affected by the bushfires.
Player’s shirts from the Boxing Day Tests will be auctioned online from Thursday, with proceeds going to the Australian Red Cross.