South Africa’s Test cricket squad had to fly to Pakistan on a hastily-arranged charter flight after their commercial flights were cancelled – and Covid-19 restrictions could further complicate the team’s plans, it emerged on Sunday.
The 21-member team and support staff arrived in Karachi on Saturday for a two-Test series against Pakistan, starting on January 26.
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 16, 2021
A team spokesperson confirmed on Sunday that Cricket South Africa had to make urgent late arrangements after being informed on Thursday that Emirates Airlines had temporarily suspended flights to and from South Africa for “operational reasons”.
The South African players had been due to travel in groups to Dubai from the airline’s hubs in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban before travelling on to Karachi.
Cricket South Africa were able to organise a charter flight to enable the team to depart as planned on Friday night, flying directly to Karachi.
With Covid-19 restrictions severely limiting international travel options from South Africa, CSA now has a major logistical and cost problem if a planned Twenty20 international series, due to follow the Test matches, is to go ahead.
It had been expected that an almost completely different squad would play in the three T20 matches, with the Test squad returning to South Africa to prepare for a planned series against Australia.
The Test series in Pakistan is due to end on February 8 with the T20 internationals scheduled on February 11-14.
The home Test series against Australia, which has not yet been confirmed, is likely to start in early March, two weeks later than originally planned.
But a CSA source told AFP that Covid-19 protocols would make it necessary for the South African Test squad to return home immediately after the second Test in Pakistan.