Cricket: Stranded Australians in Indian Premier League anxious as coronavirus pandemic worsens

The regular Indian Premier League season ends on May 23, with play-offs to follow before the final on May 30.
The regular Indian Premier League season ends on May 23, with play-offs to follow before the final on May 30.PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (REUTERS, AFP) - Australians involved in cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL) are "anxious" about how they will get home as the Covid-19 crisis continues in India but they are not looking for any "free rides", the head of the players' union said on Wednesday (April 28).

Three Australian players have pulled out of the IPL but two remain stranded in India, after Australia's decision to suspend flights from the Asian nation until May 15.

Nearly 40 Australians remain involved in the IPL as players, coaches, officials and commentators, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said they would not be allowed to jump the queue whenever repatriation flights resume.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, about 9,000 Australians are in India trying to return home.

The regular IPL season ends on May 23, with play-offs to follow before the final on May 30.

"As you'd imagine, they're all pretty anxious," Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive Todd Greenberg said.

"They're in probably one of the biggest hot spots... so we're just trying to make sure that they're all safe and secure, and they can fulfil their commitments and we can get them home as soon as we can."

India recorded 323,144 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday and 2,771 deaths, taking the total death toll to 197,894, but the IPL is ploughing on despite the health crisis.

Acting Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief Hemang Amin said in an e-mail sent to players and coaches that the bio-secure bubbles in which the players are kept had been strengthened.

All players and coaches are now tested every two days instead of every five, and outside food deliveries to team hotels have been banned.

Former Australia fast bowler Andrew Tye, who was with the Rajasthan Royals, flew home over the weekend but compatriots Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, teammates for Royal Challengers Bangalore, had been unable to exit India.

Batsman Chris Lynn, who plays for Mumbai Indians, said this week he had asked governing body Cricket Australia (CA) to arrange a chartered flight to bring players home after the IPL ends.

Greenberg said the players union was also in "conversations" with CA and authorities about that option and would also look to work with IPL club owners on players' travel arrangements.

"Our players are under no expectations for looking for specific favours... There are no free rides," he said.

"What we're trying to do is work really closely with Cricket Australia... and with government, just trying to get all the right information so we can fill them with some confidence that they will be taken care of at the right time."

Zampa said his decision to cut his IPL season short was about prioritising mental health over money.

"I feel like for anyone leaving halfway through a tournament, it's definitely a financial sacrifice," he said.

"But from my point of view I wanted to put my mental health first. Obviously the Covid situation over here is pretty dire."

CA said late on Tuesday it would continue to "liaise" with the Australian government and monitor the situation.