India delay South Africa cricket tour over Omicron

India’s cricket board on Saturday delayed the national side’s South Africa tour over the heavily mutated Omicron strain of Covid-19, it said in a statement.

Omicron was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has led to global panic, uncertainty and fresh travel curbs in the last few days, raising questions over the prospects for the tour.

The first Test of a three-match series against the Proteas has been put back from 17 December to 26 December.

The tour “will proceed with the revised dates and itinerary”, Jay Shah, secretary for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said in a statement.

As originally scheduled, a three-match ODI series will follow the five-day games, Shah said, but he did not give timings for the team’s arrival in South Africa or a detailed match itinerary.

India’s Test skipper Virat Kohli this week sought clarity on the series after conflicting media reports about Omicron.

Some players would need to quarantine ahead of the tour, he said. “Those kinds of things you want to seek clarity as soon as possible,” Kohli added.

The BCCI is the world’s richest cricket body and any Indian tour can easily generate millions of dollars for the hosts.

South Africa has praised India for its “solidarity” in not cancelling the tour and promised the most stringent measures to ensure the safety of the visiting contingent.