Cricket Australia cancels end of season, awards title to NSW

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — All professional cricket has been canceled in Australia in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and national organizers are “strongly recommending” that the season be called off at every level right down to children’s community games.

Cricket Australia announced the cancellation Tuesday, and declared New South Wales state the winner of the Sheffield Shield, the national firsts-class competition. The last round of the regular season in the Sheffield Shield had already been scrapped and there was no prospect of the final going ahead as scheduled on March 27. New South Wales won six games, lost two and drew one in the Shield, finishing 12 points clear of second-place Victoria. International cricket series between Australia and New Zealand had already been postponed.

Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said the measures are aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

“By effectively canceling the remainder of our season, Cricket Australia is playing its part in protecting fans, players, staff, volunteers and match officials during this unprecedented global health issue,” Roberts said. “These are difficult decisions but the right ones in the circumstances.”

Roberts said Cricket Australia had closed its headquarters in Melbourne and instructed staff to work from home.

National administrators said the decision was taken based on the expert advice of its chief medical officer and recent government information and “we want to ensure that cricket is doing everything it can to contribute to the global effort to slow, and eventually stop, the spread of coronavirus.”

The move comes nine days after Australia hosted and won the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup final against India, in front of a crowd of more than 86,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

New South Wales coach Phil Jaques said the health and well being of players and the public was more important than playing on.

“This is not how we wanted to win the title,” Jaques said. But, “We fully understand and support the decision to abandon the last round and the final.”

The spread of the virus has escalated in Australia, with the season-opening Formula One Grand Prix canceled last weekend in Melbourne and other sports either suspended, called off or modified.

Most people who come down with the disease have relatively mild symptoms, but it can be deadly for some, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Most people infected with the virus recover in a matter of weeks.UNB