10 Nov

Crowd capacities for India's visit to Australia have been confirmed, ranging from 75% at the Gabba which will stage the final Test to 25% at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for Boxing Day, as fans return to men's international cricket in both Australia and New Zealand for the first time since Covid-19 took hold in March.

The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and Canberra, which will share the limited-overs matches at the start of the tour with SCG then hosting the New Year's Test on January 7, will both operate at 50% of their full capacity although Cricket Australia (CA) will stagger the release of tickets to enable them to adapt to any changes.

It had previously been announced that the aim was for a crowd of 25,000 at the MCG after Melbourne came out of its long Covid-19 lockdown. The exact figures for other stadiums remain to be confirmed, but it is likely to be a similar figure at the SCG, Adelaide Oval and the Gabba. Manuka Oval in Canberra will be able host around 6000 for the final ODI and first T20I.

The same day as the Australia-India tour begins - November 27 - is also set to see crowds return to stadiums across the Tasman when New Zealand play West Indies, beginning with T20I series. Both Australia and New Zealand hosted winters sports with crowds since July.

The first international cricket to have spectators return was the Australia-New Zealand women's series staged in Brisbane from late September. To date, all men's internationals since the sport resumed have been played behind closed doors - the England home season and the Pakistan-Zimbabwe series - while the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) have also been staged without crowds.

Spectators have returned in the small numbers to Australian and New Zealand domestic cricket in recent weeks. There were trials during the English season with a view to getting crowds back, but they were curtailed by rising Covid numbers.

It was announced by the Board for the Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) late on Monday that Virat Kohli will leave the Australia tour following the first Test in Adelaide for paternity leave. It has yet to be confirmed whether he will return, but the need to quarantine in Australia means that would be unlikely.

The India squad, along with the Australia players who have been at the IPL, are due to arrive on Thursday following the IPL final. They will quarantine at a hotel at Sydney's Olympic Park and train with a bubble at Blacktown for two weeks, a period that finishes on the eve of the ODI series which begins at the SCG on November 27.

John Stephenson


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