Australia’s cricket talent in the Indian Premier League bubble will be leaving the coronavirus-ravaged country within the next 48 hours, Cricket Australia revealed on Wednesday afternoon.
On Tuesday evening, the glamorous T20 tournament was suspended after several players and staff tested positive to the virus.
The decision left 38 Australian players, coaches, commentators and umpires stranded in India, unable to return home due to the Government’s strict travel restrictions – which will not be uplifted until May 15 at the earliest.
The temporary travel ban was designed to allow for hotel quarantine upgrades in Australia before an influx of citizens fleeing COVID-ravaged India.
India is recording approximately 360,000 cases and 3500 deaths a day and has been hit by chronic shortages of hospital beds and oxygen.
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Speaking to reporters at the SCG, CA chief executive Nick Hockley explained the BCCI’s plan to help repatriate the Australians – including David Warner, Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Ricky Ponting – as quickly and safely as possible.
“What the BCCI are hoping to do is move the entire cohort out of India, where they will wait until it’s possible to return to Australia,” Hockley said on Wednesday.
“The BCCI are working on a range of options – that’s been narrowed down to the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The BCCI are working through the finer details of that at the moment.
“We expect that that move will happen within the next two days.
“We’re in very regular dialogue (with the players) … their welfare is our absolute No. 1 priority.”
As first revealed by The Australian, IPL commentator and former Test batter Michael Slater flew to the Maldives last weekend, where he will also wait until he can legally return home.
Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Todd Greenberg elaborated: “This is a two-step process – the first step is getting them out of India, and the second step will be getting them safely home.
“We’re still waiting on what the Government will do post-May 15. Once we have that confirmation, we will put the next parts of the steps in place.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison specified last week that the Australian cricketers in India would not be shown preferential treatment because they were not representing their country at the IPL.
Hockey emphasised that no shortcuts would be taken, and CA would not be seeking special exemptions for the Aussie cricket talent in India.
However, Greenberg said if the opportunity to return the Australians home on a chartered flight presented itself, they would not shy away from it.
“They always knew when they’d have to do isolation when they came back into the country. They didn’t expect the borders to be closed, and that created some anxiety for them,” Greenberg said.
“They’re very hopeful that the Government will reopen after the 15th, but we’re under no illusion that’s the decision the Government has to make.
“The public will see our best Australian athletes as superheroes. They’re brilliant athletes and great cricketers, but they’re human beings. They’re people.
“Some of them are husbands and fathers, and they’re under enormous amounts of stress over there.
“This will be an experience that they probably will never forget.”
CA confirmed former Australian Test batter Michael Hussey had returned positive results to both of his COVID-19 tests, and would be required to undergo a 10-day quarantine in his hotel room.
The 45-year-old was working as a batting coach for the Chennai Super Kings, who recorded three additional COVID-19 cases on Monday evening – chief executive officer Kasi Viswanathan, bowling coach Lakshmipathy Balaji and a bus cleaner.
Hussey remains the only Australian to have contracted the virus in the IPL bubble that CA is aware of.
“We’ve spoken to Mike (Hussey) today,” Greenberg said. “He’s OK, he’s in good spirits.
“His symptoms are relatively mild.
“He’s in for a stint of isolation in his hotel room for at least 10 days … his team have got some really good support systems in place.”
On Tuesday, Warner shared an emotional Instagram post with a message from his daughters and wife with a desperate plea: “Please Daddy come home straight away”.
Australian cricketers Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson returned home last week before the travel restrictions were introduced.