Cricket Victoria are starting to consider the various scenarios that could be required to allow their domestic season to start on schedule if the new Covid-19 lockdown of Melbourne means the teams are unable to play at home.
Melbourne and Mitchell Shire - an area north of the city - returned to lockdown at midnight on Wednesday after a spike in Covid numbers which has also led to fresh border restrictions being put in place.
It has created major problems for various winter sporting codes who have rushed to try and keep their seasons going by moving teams to inter-state hubs. While cricket still has some time on its side with the season more than two months away the contingency planning is starting with one potential scenario that Victoria could spend the first chunk of the season on the road.
While there is currently no schedule for the domestic season, last year the men's summer began in late September with a period of Marsh One-Day Cup matches before the Sheffield Shield in early October with the rest of the one-day competition played alongside.
If the first part of the season followed the same structure as last year it could also include some Women's National Cricket League matches ahead of the WBBL which, in its first standalone tournament in 2019-2020, took place during October and November. There are two Melbourne-based WBBL teams, the Renegades and the Stars.
"I'm just doing some pre-planning as to how it could look if we were forced to quarantine or get an exemption to be able to quarantine in one of the northern states or across the west," Shaun Graf, Cricket Victoria's general manager of cricket told SEN Radio. "If we had to quarantine and these [Marsh Cup] games are later in September we'd be looking to have to get out of here if we were able to early September, hopefully get exemptions across the other states and play away from home. That's one the scenarios I'm looking at, hence I'm looking at we could be away for anything up to two months."
Graf does not believe the potential of being in a hub for an extended period of time would present the same challenge for cricketers as it is doing for some other sports. The players are used to travelling for extensive periods, albeit usually spread across a whole season with 35-40 days on the road for the Shield, although the additional bio-security measures would be a challenge.
"We've spoken to players, it's not quite the same as for football codes because we are used to travelling and being on the road a long period of time but everyone needs to know that this may be a scenario if we are to kick the season off," he said. "We'd have to make sure players stay within the compound of hotels, that's something we'd need to look at because you haven't got the freedom to go for a run or have a hit of gold so we'd have to look at those issues that footy has confronted. But generally from a travelling point of view it doesn't really faze a cricket side as much as the football codes."
Graf added that while travel is a "fairly major cost" in normal circumstances he would expect Cricket Australia to help with the additional expense of a hub which would entail the need for a larger squad. "If we were in the situation where we had to go into a hub we'd talk to CA and I'd expect there would be some offset," he said.
For the immediate future, Victoria's pre-season for both the men's and women's squads has not been stopped by the new lockdown with elite sport having an exemption to train with strict bio-security measures in place. Graf revealed up to six Victoria players have been tested for Covid-19 after reporting symptoms but have all come back negative.