The mission to keep the fourth Test at the Gabba has been given a boost with confirmation players will not need to quarantine in their own hotel room.
It comes as the New South Wales government contemplates stepping up pleas with some western Sydney residents to avoid the SCG Test amid the growing Berala bottle shop Covid-19 cluster.
India’s frustrations over the planned quarantine conditions in Queensland threw doubt over the venue of the series finale on Sunday, with the tourists reportedly wanting a move from Brisbane.
That was met with a firm resistance by Australia’s players, who see the Gabba as their fortress and none of whom would remember seeing the team lose a Test there.
At the heart of India’s issues is believed to be a frustration that they have already served a 14-day quarantine on entry to the country, and do not want to endure it again.
The tourists were particularly put off by any suggestion they would need to isolate in their own hotel rooms, only allowed to leave to go the ground to train or play.
But while Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said the state would not bend rules given they were coming from a Covid-19 hotspot in Sydney, players could mix inside the hotel.
“They will be confined to the hotel. We have worked with them they can have bubbles within that hotel,” Dr Young said.
“Because they are going to be going and playing with colleagues in the matches so they will have exposure there. So it doesn’t expose me if they have exposure to each other in the hotel.”
Cricket Australia say no official approach has been made about the Test, while SCG staff have previously indicated they could prepare a pitch for a second straight Test if needed.
But Australian players are adamant the match should stay in Brisbane, expecting sacrifices to be made from the relative freedom they have had in Adelaide and Melbourne.
“If [play-in-quarantine] is what the government are going to make us do to play a game at the Gabba then we’re willing to sacrifice,” Matthew Wade said on Sunday.
“I knew going into it, a lot of the players knew coming into it, it wasn’t going to be an ideal situation. And if something went south we were going to make some more sacrifices along the way.”
Australia have not lost a Test at the Gabba since 1988, with their 32-year unbeaten streak the longest of any team at any ground in world cricket.
“Our record’s very good there and we tend to play good cricket there,” Wade said. “If it went to games back to back at the SCG that would obviously not be something that we will want to do.
“We would be much more comfortable going and playing the schedule as it rolls.”
With the series locked at 1-1, both teams will leave Melbourne for Sydney on Monday for the third Test before the series finale in Brisbane on January 15.
India’s Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini as the BCCI investigate if they broke protocols by eating inside at a Melbourne restaurant.
Teams have enjoyed relative freedom so far on the tour, but restrictions will tighten in Sydney due to the outbreak before the play-under-quarantine conditions in Brisbane that have frustrated India.
They are also set to affect fans, with acting NSW premier John Barilaro on Sunday indicating the government could yet ban residents from the Cumberland area from attending the third Test at the SCG, which starts on Thursday.
“If you’re coming from that area, the broader Cumberland area … we encourage you to rethink about going to the Test and there may be more said by Health and the government in the next day or so in relation to that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Australia’s pace depth has taken a hit after James Pattinson hurt his ribs in a fall, leaving the fast bowler in doubt for the final two Tests against India.
Pattinson is yet to feature in the four-Test series but would have been a near-automatic inclusion if anything were to happen to one of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc.
The Victorian will be assessed after the SCG Test, starting Thursday, which team management has confirmed he will miss.
There is a three-day break between the third and fourth Tests, presuming the clash in Sydney runs into a fifth day. As such, Pattinson may struggle to convince medicos and selectors he is ready to be recalled at the Gabba.
A team spokesperson said Pattinson has bruised ribs after a fall at his property, which he returned to while on approved leave from the team’s hub in Melbourne. The 30-year-old, who played last year’s SCG Test and two Tests during the 2019 Ashes, will not be replaced in the squad.
Pattinson’s setback means Michael Neser and Sean Abbott are both one step closer to a Test debut. Australia are expected to name an unchanged attack for the third Test.