New Delhi | Jagran Sports Desk: The new variant of the deadly COVID-19 infection, which has been named 'Omicron' by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has cast a shadow over the Indian cricket team's tour to South Africa. Omicron, dubbed as a 'variant of concern' by the WHO, has set alarm bells across the world with several countries imposing travel restrictions on South Africa and its neighbours to check the spread of the infection.

Cases of the Omicron variant are rising in the northern part of South Africa and two venues for the Test series - Johannesburg and Pretoria (near Centurion) - could become vulnerable to the spread of the new variant.

So far, the tour will continue as per the schedule, but senior officials of the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) have expressed concerns over the team's assignment, saying it will speak to the government before taking a final call.

"Look, till we get a detailed picture of the ground situation from Cricket South Africa (CSA), we will not be able to tell our next step. As per the current plan, the Indian team is supposed to leave either on December 8 or 9 just after the New Zealand series gets over in Mumbai," news agency PTI quoted a senior BCCI official as saying.

The BCCI official indicated that even though players will be sent on a charter flight from Mumbai to Johannesburg, there is a possibility of putting them through three-four days of hard quarantine upon reaching given the changed circumstances.

"Initially, there was no provision for hard quarantine but obviously the players will remain in a bio-bubble. Now with cases rising in South Africa and European Union also cancelling flights temporarily, we need to factor in these aspects," a senior BCCI source said, as reported by PTI.

PTI also got in touch with a member of the administrative staff who is currently in Bloemfontein with the India A team which is in the middle of a ‘shadow tour’ of two unofficial Tests.

"We didn’t undergo any hard quarantine on arrival over here since we came by charter flight and are staying in a bio-bubble. After the outbreak, a medical team from Cricket South Africa had a meeting with our representatives over here," the official said over the phone.

"We were told that there is nothing to worry since the spike in cases is far away from Bloemfontein where we would be playing our next match too," the official added.

Following is India's schedule for the South Africa tour:

1st Test: December 17-21: Wanderers, Johannesburg

2nd Test: December 26-30: SuperSport Park, Centurion

3rd Test: January 3-7: Newlands, Cape Town

1st ODI: January 11: Boland Park, Paarl

2nd ODI: January 14: Newlands, Cape Town

3rd ODI: January 16: Newlands, Cape Town

1st T20I: January 19: Newlands, Cape Town

2nd T20I: January 21: Newlands, Cape Town

3rd T20I: January 23: Boland Park, Paarl

4th T20I: January 26: Boland Park, Paarl

(With inputs from PTI)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma