Cancellation of England’s tour to South Africa would have huge ramifications, says Nasser Hussain

After the first ODI between South Africa and England was abandoned due to two members of hotel staff tested positive for Covid-19 and a further two “unconfirmed positive tests” among the England touring party, Nasser Hussain considers the ramifications for the remainder of the series…

It’s got to be on those unconfirmed positives, you’ve got to hope they’re false positives because if they are proven to be positive then it is a complete and utter mess.

What do you do with those two England players or backroom staff? They’ll have to stay out here for two weeks. When you’re in a team, you’re not going to turn around and say to your team-mates, ‘all right, we’re off home for Christmas, you stay out here’ so it becomes a real mess.

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Fingers crossed they get retested and it was an anomaly, but players will be increasingly concerned that the bubble has been breached and they’ll be counting down the days until Thursday and their flight home.

They were due to play on Monday at Newlands, I guess they could push the game back and play Tuesday and Wednesday – there’s no way they are going to get three games in but they could play back-to-back games and fly back Thursday.

It will be a challenge but players sort of get used to that, back-to-back games for them, they’ll just get it done and dusted and get home. But mentally it will be tough, especially from some of these guys who have been at the IPL like the skipper, Eoin Morgan.

He played all those weeks of IPL, in a bubble, and then comes here. For a lot of them it will be mentally tough, for some of the youngsters it will be a case ‘fingers crossed, please, please, please, I just want to play one game!’

Players like Reece Topley and Olly Stone, who have been through so many injuries, they’ll just want to get out at one of the great venues in world cricket and play again for England. They’ll be so many mixed emotions and it is where the leadership of Morgan, which we never doubt, will come to the fore.

Those two hotel staff could have been with anyone, they’re then serving the England cricket team. That’s the problem with being in a bubble. It works if it is completely secure, but it also makes it doubly worse because you’re all on top of each other and then when the bubble is breached, that can spread through the team.

England players will be thinking it’s December 6, we then have to spend two weeks here if one of us get it and we’re going to be late home for Christmas. Can we spread it to grandparents and other family members and things like that?

They will be really concerned. Some of them have to go off to Sri Lanka on January 2 so there will be a lot of meetings, you can imagine the WhatsApp groups going on between players – ‘should we just get ourselves home for the sake of two or three one-day internationals?’

The ramifications for the South African broadcasting rights are huge. That is why all this effort has been put in place and England will bear that in mind; the West Indies and Pakistan came over to England and did their bit, stayed in the bubble – there’s a bit of unity in world cricket that ‘we’ll look after you, you look after us’.

People won’t forget what West Indies and Pakistan did, so England won’t just jump on a plane and say ‘we’re not interested in fulfilling your broadcasting right.’ They will do whatever they can, they’ll wait for the test results of all the players then they’ll leave it to the hierarchy to decide.

The only thing is that it’s Christmas, family time, and they’ve been in a bubble for so long. Could they cope with another two weeks of quarantine if one person gets it?

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It’s just amazing what the ECB did over the summer, the money that they threw at hand sanitisers and tests every single day. In England they made it as secure as you possible could, they threw everything at those Test series and one-day series.

I’m not saying that haven’t done that here but bubbles do get breached, they are not 100 per cent secure. I was thinking the other day, what is different about cricket? Viewers at home might be thinking Mo Salah got Covid and just got pulled out of the Liverpool side, Lewis Hamilton got Covid and just got pulled out of the Grand Prix.

It was not until the Newcastle game on Friday night when such a large part of the squad got Covid that they had to cancel the game. I repeat, the difference is that they’re in a bubble and if it does spread, as the cliché goes, it spreads like a virus and they all go down, then you have serious problems.

If all the tests come back negative, everyone is fine apart from the one South African player who got it in the week, it will have to be Tom Harrison and Ashley Giles, who is out here, who will have to convince the England boys.

For the sake of three or four days and the broadcasting rights, are they willing to risk it? Just in case that bubble is breached again and on Wednesday afternoon someone in that hotel comes in with the virus, it’s not 100 per cent safe so there will have to be some convincing going on.

When you’re talking about the health of a player, I think you do need 100 per cent buy-in from the squad. The ECB are very, very clear – and Cricket South Africa, too – that the wellbeing and welfare of their players is absolutely paramount.

They will put the players’ opinion right at the top of their list but let’s hope it comes back negative.

I don’t know how many of the England players are sitting there going ‘do we really need this?’ Also, it is the mental health; on the back of all the bubbles, when this suddenly hits you right at the end.

You can imagine they’ve all got Thursday their diaries and on their phones as out of bubble time, going home time and family looking forward to seeing them. Then right at the end of all this mental angst. That’s where it is up to the convincing of Harrison and Giles.

We’ve got a big squad here and there will be a lot of lads going ‘well I’m doing all of this and I’m not even playing!’ We’re not moaning, they’re not moaning, it’s Covid’s fault, it’s not an international player’s fault. We’ve seen already the efforts that have been put in by the CSA and ECB and the players and the management.

Look how good the IPL was, cricket has done seriously well to get this show on the road since last summer. It’s just hit a bit of a hiccup and a hurdle now and they’ll have to try and get over this hurdle.

I’d like to think we’ll see more cricket on this tour because of what I said earlier, think of what Pakistan did, West Indies did, Ireland did, Australia did.

I’d like to think England will give it a go if those tests come back negative but that’s easy for me to say, those players have been through a lot more than we have.

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