Aussies ready for dog days of cricket in bio-secure bubble

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The dog days of isolation are something Aaron Finch is content to continue to ensure global cricket — his job — goes on despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Preparing for Australia’s cricket tour to England next month has been a different experience for the opening batter who will lead a squad of 21 for a series of three Twenty20 games and three one-day internationals next month.

A strict lockdown in Melbourne is in effect now as Victoria endures a deadly second wave of COVID-19 infections. This is a preview for him of more isolation on tour, with the Australians set to go into a bio-secure bubble just like the West Indies and Pakistan squads have for games in England over recent weeks.

Finch started an online news conference Tuesday with a warning that his dog might bark in the background and he’d pause his responses if that happened — which it did a couple of times. He signed off the online news conference with an apology, smiling with his headphones still on: “Take care. Sorry about my dog.”

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During the first lockdown, which started in March, Finch posted a video of himself on social media doing a dance in front of his little dog, Evie, and dubbed it “quarantinelife.”

In Melbourne’s second lockdown, which started this month, the barking has become background noise.

Footballers, coaches and team staff in Australia’s National Rugby League and Australian rules competitions have been heavily fined or placed back in quarantine over the last month for breaking bio-security protocols that are in place to ensure their sports can be played domestically during the pandemic.

England fast bowler Jofra Archer was stood down for a test match against West Indies last month after making a detour to his home between games and bursting the so-called bio-security bubble.

Finch said following the rules shouldn’t be an issue for his squad, which leaves Australia on Sunday. There are players in the squad who will tour England, then go into isolation immediately before the Indian Premier League — the lucrative Twenty20 tournament that is being staged in the United Arab Emirates starting Sept. 19 — and go back into isolation on return to Australia before a home series against India.

“What’s really important to remember is we’re in a position to help continue the global game,” Finch said when asked if sanctions had been discussed for players who breach the bio-security protocols. “And there should be no more motivation than that, to do everything right.”

Because, he added, “if that falls over then we’re all out of jobs and the game isn’t in a healthy state, which we can’t afford to have.”

Finch said thousands of people across the cricket world have worked to ensure international cricket can be played, and “we owe it to those people, in particular, to do everything right.

Australia’s international borders have been closed since March, and domestic borders between some states have also been closed since a second outbreak in Victoria earlier this month.

With night-time curfews and high-level lockdowns in place in Melbourne this month, there’s been doubt over the city’s status as host of the annual Boxing Day cricket test. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is scheduled to host the Australia vs. India test in the traditional Dec. 26 time slot, but there’s growing speculation that the match could be moved.

Finch said the players and administrators were prepared to be flexible and to compromise.

“Yes, you love the 90,000 (crowd) on Boxing Day … it’s an amazing spectacle. To have the ability to host it at the MCG is huge. It’s so iconic and such a great event,” Finch said. “But equally, it comes down to what is best for the game at the time. Keeping the game as healthy as it can be is the upmost responsibility of players and everyone.

“So whether that has to change for a year, one summer, I don’t think is going to be a huge issue.”

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