Australia board sees hubs, 'concentrated content' during home summer

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Cricket Australia is committed to delivering a full schedule for fans and broadcasters but biosecure hubs and “concentrated content” are likely to be a feature of the home summer due to COVID-19, interim CEO Nick Hockley said on Thursday.

CA have pencilled in a four-test series with India and dates for the men’s and women’s domestic Twenty20 competitions but have yet to confirm the schedule, prompting criticism from rights-holder Channel Seven this week.

Seven’s boss James Warburton said broadcasters had paid top dollar and took aim at suggestions the country’s best players might be prevented from competing in the Big Bash League while confined to biosecure hubs.

Hockley, however, said player safety was CA’s top priority.

“Creating hubs and concentrating content as the other sporting codes have done during the winter is something that we’re likely to have to do, certainly in the early stages of the season,” Hockley told reporters in a video call.

“How that then pans out ... we’re all hoping the situation improves. Clearly it’s going to be a busy and full summer ... But we’re working through the schedules at the moment, there’s going to be lots of great cricket and that’s the main thing.”

After COVID-19 halted all sport in March, the country’s top-flight football leagues resumed mid-year, confining teams to biosecure hubs and moving competition out of Victoria after a second wave of infections in the southern state.

Travel restrictions and state border controls continue to hamper planning, however.

The Australian Football League’s championship-deciding ‘Grand Final’, one of the country’s most iconic sporting fixtures, will be played outside Victoria for the first time in its history this year.

Cricket’s traditional Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is also in doubt but Hockley said it was “way premature” to decide on it.

“It’s four months away, it’s miles away ... The Boxing Day test at the MCG, that’s what everyone wants to see.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford