As other international cricketers make plans to leave India following the suspension of the IPL, Australian players, coaches and staff have been left wondering how and when they will be able to return home.
The Morrison government’s ban on Australians returning from India is not due to expire until 15 May, leaving the stranded contingent with two options: stay put until a change in the ruling allows them to travel home directly, or escape to another country until the ban lifts.
Some of the cohort – which numbers more than 30 – are reportedly considering hiring a charter flight to Dubai or the Maldives, where they would wait until being allowed to return home.
Former Test batsman and now commentator Michael Slater, who criticised the government’s travel policy earlier in the week, has already taken that route and is in the Maldives having fled the Covid-19 crisis in India.
A charter flight from India to Australia has effectively been ruled out, with Cricket Australia and the players’ union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, saying they would not seek an exemption from the government ban, which carries a hefty fine and even a jail sentence for a breach.
CA and the ACA said they were working with the BCCI – India’s cricket board – to “ensure safe accommodation and repatriation” of the Australian contingent.
The BCCI said it would “do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021”.
CA and the ACA will give an update at a joint press conference called for 4.30pm in Sydney.
Amid the worsening Covid crisis in India, where coronavirus infections surged past 20m on Tuesday, the IPL’s previously bio-secure bubble was finally burst this week. Four IPL franchises reported positive Covid-19 tests to players or staff, including a number of teams containing Australians. Many have been placed in isolation, including Steve Smith and Test vice-captain Pat Cummins.
Cummins, who went into isolation in an Ahmedabad hotel on Monday, said he was hoping to get home “like we normally planned” once the border reopened on 15 May. “Whether it is private or not, as it stands, we would not be allowed back in,” he told the ABC. “Cricket Australia have been brilliant, along with the ACA – they are working closely with the government to try to find out the latest information – but if we can’t get home it won’t be from lack of trying from those involved.”
On Tuesday, Test great Michael Hussey reportedly became the first of the Australian cricket cohort in India to return a positive Covid test, with the Chennai Super Kings’ batting coach now awaiting results from a second test. “Hussey tested positive. But his samples are being redone,” a Super Kings source told the Times of India.
Australia’s deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said the government would “potentially” lift the travel ban on 15 May. “We said all along we will review the pause in travel arrangements and that’s what we’re doing, so be patient,” McCormack told the Nine Network.
India’s total active cases stand at 3.45m, with 357,229 new infections recorded on Tuesday, while deaths rose by 3,449 to 222,408.
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