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South Africa 'have a number of tours against India' in the works, says Graeme Smith

CSA has not disclosed the names of players who tested positive for Covid-19 BCCI

South Africa are hopeful of playing against India "a number of times" in the next cycle of bilateral series, and several exchanges between the two sides are on the verge of being signed off, according to Cricket South Africa's director of cricket, Graeme Smith.

Speaking on TV commentary during the domestic T20 cup, Smith outlined a busy international programme after this year's IPL, while continuing to acknowledge the fallout from the indefinitely postponed three-Test series against Australia, which was scheduled for March.

"Myself and Sourav [Ganguly, the BCCI president] go a long way back and we've had a number of conversations," Smith said. "India have been very supportive of us. Hopefully, in the next cycle we will have a number of tours against India that are actually pretty close to being finalised.

"Tom Harrison and the ECB have been brilliant as well. Even the handling of the England situation [when England left South Africa in December without playing three ODIs on their white-ball tour] was good. That has already been rescheduled. There has been a joint resolution and understanding of that.

"But Australia have been the one that has stood out in terms of the difficulties, and we never found the same sense of working together as we did with the others. We've also got to ask some hard questions of them and challenge them as well. That's important for world cricket."

CSA has lodged a formal complaint with the ICC, asking the game's global governing body's dispute resolution committee to consider whether Australia's decision not to tour South Africa constituted unacceptable non-compliance of the FTP and the World Test Championship terms. "Even if we don't win that - because I don't think there is any precedent for it - the message is loud and clear," Smith said.

That message is multifold as South Africa seek financial compensation, assurances that countries would be obliged to fulfil their fixtures and not unilaterally pull out, to avoid the big three of India, England and Australia monopolising the international calendar, and for all ICC members to work together to get as much cricket played as possible.

"Each country is facing different challenges. It's important that the members get together and support each other, and try and find ways to get as much done as we can," Smith said. "That added to the disappointment of Australia. So far, everyone we have worked with has had that mindset and understood that, and my sense is that Australia didn't. That's what let us down. You work with members to try and find the safest way to get cricket played. It's become a collaborative approach with the medical teams and operations teams and how finances will work."

South Africa were to play India in March 2020, but had to return home after only one ODI of a three-match series, as countries around the world went into lockdown because of Covid-19. But they are scheduled to host India for three Tests in the 2021-22 summer.

Smith further said that India apart, South Africa are currently in talks with West Indies and Sri Lanka to play winter tours in those countries before the T20 World Cup. "Our teams are going to be very busy post IPL to build up to the T20 World Cup and identify the right squad," he said.

Before the IPL, South Africa would be hosting Pakistan for three ODIs and four T20Is between April 2 and 16, with Smith hoping that spectators would be allowed into grounds to send off this summer on a celebratory note. "We are working closely with the government. When Pakistan come, we'd love to have some element of fans in the stadium," he said.

South Africa are currently on Level 3 of a five-stage lockdown - with Level 5 being the strictest - and most sectors of the economy are open. Current restrictions include an 11pm curfew and a ban on fans in stadiums but with the Covid-19 infection rate declining, there is a possibility that by April, there will be a further easing of measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The ongoing domestic T20 tournament is being played behind closed doors and in a bio-secure environment in Durban, but the concluding stages of the first-class competition - which will take place next month - will not be played in a bubble. That may be an indication that conditions are becoming safer for playing sport at multiple locations and with fewer limits on player movements.

All nationally contracted players are obliged to make themselves available for these domestic matches as South Africa aim to accelerate their rebuilding process. "The goal is to get cricket played, to get ourselves moving forward," Smith said. "We do need to improve our cricket standards, so these are an important four to five weeks of cricket for us."