The New South Wales Blues have been declared Sheffield Shield champions for 2019-20 after Cricket Australia cancelled the final and all other organised cricket as part of its response to coronavirus.
The Blues were set to face Victoria in the final in Wollongong starting next Friday, March 27, however Cricket Australia’s decision to call the match off has seen the title handed to NSW.
“By effectively cancelling 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,” Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts said.
“These are difficult decisions, but the right ones in the circumstances.
“Many will no doubt be disappointed that the Sheffield Shield, Premier Cricket and community cricket seasons won’t have their traditional ending. That said, we congratulate New South Wales who were 12 points clear at the top of the table on being crowned Sheffield Shield champions.
“As organisations around the world rally to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it’s important that we also provide decisive leadership. We hope that by taking these actions now – in addition to those announced in recent days – we can contribute to ‘flattening the curve’ of coronavirus and society returning to normal as quickly as possible.”
The Blues enjoyed a dominant season, finishing top of the table with six wins – twice as many as the second-placed Bushrangers – and 12 points clear of their interstate rivals having lost only two of their nine matches.
It is their first title since the 2013-14 season, although they finished as runners-up to Victoria last year.
Cricket Australia had earlier cancelled the last round of the home-and-away season due to the spread of coronavirus but had held off on making a call on the final itself, even as cancellations became the norm in the sporting world. Today’s announcement marks the first time the competition has been cancelled since World War II.
Meanwhile, CA has recommended all forms of organised cricket – including grade and club competitions – be cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the governing body said the decision was based on expert advice from their chief medical officer, as well as information from the government.
“CA has strongly recommended that all amateur cricket played within the community should cease including community cricket and Premier Cricket,” the statement read.
“Based on expert advice from CA’s chief medical officer, John Orchard, and recent government information 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.
“While cricket is a relatively safe and non-contact sport there are considerable measures that need to be in place to adhere to expert advice around reducing the risk of spreading the virus. We focused specifically on minimising the risk and impact on the cricket communities that we lead and serve, as well as their families.”
CA was the first major Australian sporting organisation to go behind closed doors when they announced the ODI series against the Black Caps would be played in front of empty stadiums. However, only one of the three scheduled fixtures took place before that series was scrapped following the New Zealand Government’s decision to introduce tough border restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.