Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has denied it was “irresponsible” to play Sunday’s women’s T20 World Cup final in front of more than 86,000 spectators at the MCG.
However, he has acknowledged the potential exposure of many in attendance to the coronavirus helped lead to the decision to play the men’s ODI series between Australia and New Zealand in empty stadiums over the next week.
Speaking in Melbourne on Friday morning, Roberts said that CA has been receiving constantly updated advice from health officials in recent days, with Thursday’s news that a spectator in the MCC members area of the MCG on Sunday had subsequently been diagnosed with coronavirus contributing to the call to lock crowds out of the three ODI matches, two at the SCG on Friday and Sunday and concluding at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval next Friday.
“We’ve taken what we believe is a well-balanced decision,” Roberts said. “We obviously experienced last Sunday night that a member of the crowd at the women’s T20 World Cup, was later diagnosed with coronavirus, and it’s important that we learn from that.
“What we’ve learned from that, the decision we’ve made, is to go ahead with these ODIs today and on Sunday and next week, but they’ll be played without crowds in attendance. We think it would’ve been excessive to cancel the matches. Had we gone ahead as planned, we think that would’ve been a failure to learn from what we experienced last Sunday. so we’re confident that in a situation that’s not ideal, we’ve made a well-balanced decision.”
Asked directly whether it had been irresponsible to host such an enormous crowd on Sunday for the final of the ICC event, Roberts was adamant that it was not. “A lot of things have changed since last Sunday,” Roberts said. “Based on the information that was at hand at that time it was the right thing to do to inspire a world of women and girls, and to give cricket for men, women, boys and girls a massive springboard. It was the right thing to do to host that final on Sunday night, and inspire the cricket world.
“We’ve been getting updated advice almost hourly. It’s really important that we navigate that calmly and we make well balanced decisions, rather than getting into a situation of panic. So there’s no rigidity or regularity about those updates, our eyes and ears are open all the time and will continue to be, so we’re as informed as possible.”
Roberts said that he was hopeful that the weekend’s round of club cricket finals across the country would go ahead as planned.
“Certainly our information is that it’s safe for our people to be working in the office over the road today, provided that we keep a safe distance from each other and make good decisions with the information we’ve got,” he said. “So I hope people can get out there in club cricket this weekend, there’s many finals on in club cricket around the country this weekend, so all the best to all the players and teams getting out there, having a crack and staying safe while they do it.”
The day of the World Cup final was also notable for lengthy meetings involving Roberts, the CA chairman Earl Eddings and the ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney among others, as they contemplate the resolution of a series of disputes around the nature of the game’s future calendar – notably Sawhney’s proposal for an dramatic increase in the number and scale of global events from 2023 to 2031.
“We had good discussion with Manu when he was down for the T20 World Cup final,” Roberts said. “We’re really conscious, as much as we all love cricket, and perhaps billions of people around the world love cricket, this situation is bigger than cricket and that’s what we’re focused on at the moment, the safety of our players, our people and the public. That’s where our focus lies, and we’ll continue to deal with business as usual activities when we’re confident this situation is in hand.”