IPL 2021: Australia and England stars scramble to escape Covid-hit India
New Zealand Cricket trying to arrange for its players to travel on to Britain
Cricket authorities in Australia, New Zealand and England rushed to evacuate its players from Covid-ravaged India on Wednesday, after the Indian Premier League was cut short following a number of positive tests.
Cricket Australia said it was working with its Indian counterpart the BCCI to fly 38 players and staff - including superstars Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins - to the the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the next "two to three days".
The England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed eight of its 11 players in India returned to Heathrow on Wednesday morning to begin a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Cricket said its players were isolating in team hotels in India while arrangements were being made for Test players to fly to Britain ahead of their series there and next month's World Test Championship final against India.
Cricket South Africa also said it was in contact with their players and support staff, working to bring them home.
The IPL, the world's richest Twenty20 cricket tournament, was suspended on Tuesday after several Covid-19 cases were confirmed within the six-city tournament's bio-secure "bubble".
Australian players, pundits and officials in India have been left in limbo, as they are banned from returning home until at least May 15 after Canberra shut its borders and threatened anyone entering from India with fines and jail time.
The group is likely to be flown by charter flight back to Australia once the ban has been lifted, with the help of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
"The BCCI is working through arrangements to repatriate all the players, the support staff, and umpires commentators as quickly and safely as possible," said Nick Hockley, Cricket Australia's interim CEO.
They are "working to move the entire cohort out of India ... the BCCI has been working on a range of options. That's now narrowed down to the Maldives and Sri Lanka".
One Australian who will not depart with that group is Chennai Super Kings batting coach Michael Hussey, 45 , after the 79-Test veteran tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.
"He's in for a stint of isolation in his hotel room for at least 10 days, but he's in pretty good spirits," said Todd Greenberg, the Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive.
Warner, who was signed up with the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise, posted a drawing of his family made by one of his daughters on Instagram, with a caption reading: "Please Daddy come home straight away. We miss you a lot and love you."
It had gathered more than 900,000 likes by the time of publishing.
Warner's Sunrisers teammate, wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha, and Delhi Capitals leg-spinner Amit Mishra are the latest players to test positive for the coronavirus.
New Zealand Cricket said it was trying to organise a charter to Britain for Test players Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner, as well as three players signed to English county sides.
Britain is currently only allowing its own citizens to travel home from India but a New Zealand Cricket spokesman said "we're confident of getting border exemptions".
England's Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Moeen Ali and Sam and Tom Curran are beginning a 10-day hotel quarantine after arriving back in Britain, the ECB said.
World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan have yet to leave India but are expected back by the end of the week. Morgan's franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders, saw their match against Royal Challengers Bangalore postponed on Monday after two players returned positive Covid-19 tests.
India, which has reported more than 20 million infections so far, with more than 220,000 deaths, is due to host the Twenty20 World Cup from October. The BCCI confirmed last week that the UAE would be a backup host should the crisis in India show no sign of abating.
The IPL started in early April, with the decision to go ahead in the face of a deepening health crisis prompting criticism from some, while others defended it as a welcome distraction.
Updated: May 5, 2021 03:54 PM