Details have emerged of a close call involving Mitchell Starc, that almost saw the Aussie fast bowler pulled out of the first Test against India.
Starc has been influential in a match that is delicately poised after two days in Adelaide, however, his close proximity to the recent COVID-19 spike in Sydney's Northern Beaches meant he was almost scratched from the Australian XI.
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Broadcasters Channel 7 and Fox Sports were forced to stand down several staff members working on the coverage, because they live within close proximity to Sydney's virus spike.
Former Test bowler and Fox Cricket expert Brett Lee was among those staff members to be sent back to his home on the Northern Beaches.
It's now emerged that Starc was also in danger of being ushered back to his Northern Beaches home, where he lives with cricket star wife Alyssa Healy.
The pair were understood to be on the Northern Beaches on Friday, December 11 to visit an ill family member, with Starc granted a release from Cricket Australia's biosecurity bubble in Adelaide.
According the News Corp reporter Ben Horne, the South Australian government granted the player a rare exemption because of how strictly CA enforces its biosecurity protocols.
CA said Starc was made to self-isolate for 72 hours, before being allowed to rejoin the Aussie bubble.
If he was unable to complete that three-day quarantine, he would have been flown back home and missed the first Test.
“He is out there by the skin of his teeth,” cricket journalist Peter Lalor said on Channel 7.
“If Starc hadn’t gone into a self-imposed isolation last Friday, he would probably have been pulled from the field today.
“CA had to go to the South Australian government and request special permission for him to stay because he was in the area where people are being asked to go into isolation.
“So he would have had to go back to the hotel, wouldn’t be playing in the match at this stage if it wasn’t for Cricket Australia’s COVID bubble that they have instituted.
“There have been a lot of people grumbling and moaning about these self-imposed restrictions from Cricket Australia, but we can see now the volume of them. It has allowed him to stay in this game and hopefully will allow the cricket to continue.”
The incident comes with CA remaining upbeat that its biosecurity protocols will ensure the Test series can be completed in Brisbane as planned, even if Queensland opts to shut its border to Sydney.
The COVID-19 cluster in Sydney's northern beaches has alarmed state governments and sporting organisations.
The third Test is fully expected to start in Sydney on January 7 as planned, although NSW Health is likely to re-evaluate plans for a capacity crowd.
The biggest logistical problem for CA in coming weeks could be the fourth Test, which is due to begin on January 15 at the Gabba.
Sydney virus spike throws up several issues
At this stage, Sydneysiders will only be directed to quarantine in Queensland if they have been in the Northern Beaches during the past week.
But the state is monitoring the situation closely and may opt to raise red flags for more suburbs - or the entire city - if worried about community transmission of the virus.
Australia and India's Test squads have not been in hard lockdown during recent weeks.
However, rules have dictated what players and staff are allowed to do whenever leaving the hotel - such as dining outdoors rather than indoors.
There had been hope that protocols could be loosened in coming weeks but it now appears likely that things may actually get stricter if anything.
CA chief executive Nick Hockley believes his organisation's protocols could help obtain exemptions if required.
"There are business continuity measures to make sure - if there are situations ... that we can give ourselves the best chance to move around safely," Hockley said on SEN.
"We'll work very closely with the authorities.
"We've got a clear set of protocols. We've been very transparent ... with all the health authorities.
"This is the very reason we have the hubs in place ... we've had almost zero community transmission.
"There's been lots of calls; 'do we actually need the hubs?'."
CA had originally planned to start India's tour with six white-ball games in south-east Queensland but couldn't obtain quarantine exemptions from the state.
Players are only part of the puzzle.
Broadcast staff, officials and technicians responsible for the Decision Review System (DRS) will also need to cross the NSW-Queensland border.
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