Johannesburg: Former South Africa batting all-rounder Farhaan Behardien is hoping that the new COVID-19 variant, which is causing alarm here, will not jeopardize India’s tour of the country next month as young cricketers of his nation need the series “more than ever”.

The Indian team, during the nearly seven-week assignment starting December 17, is scheduled to play three Tests, three ODIs, and four T20 Internationals across four venues — Johannesburg, Centurion, Paarl, and Cape Town. Although, the new COVID variant has put the tour in limbo with the BCCI insisting that any decision on the fate of the series will be taken based on the government’s advice.

Behardien through his Twitter account made the following tweet:

The World Health Organisation named it Omicron on Friday.

Cases are on the rise in the northern part of the country and at least two venues for the Test series — Johannesburg and Pretoria (near Centurion) — could become vulnerable to the spread of the Omicron variant.

The 36-year-old Behardien, who is a former T20 captain of the Proteas, also objected to the variant being identified as South African.

“Its not the ‘South African’ variant, it was detected here among other places in the world. In the famous words of Martin Van Jaarsveld, the great Titans player, WAKE UP!!! #OmicronVariant,” he tweeted.

The new variant has already taken its toll on sports here with reports emerging on Friday that the Netherlands have withdrawn from their ongoing ODI series in Centurion. Cricket South Africa said a decision would be made only in the next two days as flight options for the tourists have been affected by the travel bans that have come into the effect due to the new variant.

Inputs from PTI