Suspension of IPL 2021 leaves Australia players, support staff stranded

Written by Sumit Seth

Australia players, support staff and commentators are facing an anxious wait as there is very little clarity over how they would be returning home from India after Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took the decision to suspend the T20 league mid-way after positive Covid-19 cases emerged from the bio-bubbles in Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

The BCCI had insisted last month that it would ensure safe return of overseas players in the IPL after the end of the tournament. The governing body of Indian cricket stressed that IPL was not going to be over for them until the players returned to their families safely. However, it remains to be seen how they will make arrangements for overseas stars, especially the ones from Australia, amid the travel ban imposed by the Australian government.

Australia has shut its borders, not allowing any commercial flights from India, which has been badly hit by the Covid-19 crisis. The ban will be in place till May 15. The Australian government also threatened a 5-year jail term of a hefty fine for its citizens if they entered Australia after having been in India within their last 14 days of their arrival. The decision was announced on Friday after a meeting of the National Cabinet in a bid to keep the Covid-19 surge in Australia under check.

While 3 players, including Adam Zampa, returned home after pulling out from IPL 2021 before the travel ban was announced, as many as 14 players are still in the bio-bubbles. The likes of Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting, Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Simon Katich and commentators like Brett Lee are also in India.

‘BCCI will do everything in its powers’

However, the IPL, on Tuesday, reiterated that it “will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021”.

Notably, Glenn Maxwell had said on April 30 that Australia plates wouldn’t mind travelling to UK along with India and New Zealand players after the completion of IPL 2021 before finding a way back home from there. India and New Zealand players are expected to travel to the UK for the World Test Championships final and Test series in the Old Blighty.

“India and England are going to play in England. Worst comes to worst, we have to wait in England and try and find a way out in that chartered (flight) and get out of India,” Maxwell had said.

It remains to be seen how England and New Zealand cricketers return home from India amid travel restrictions. The UK added India to its travel red list last month but British and Irish nationals can travel from India, provided they isolate in government-mandated hotels.

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Sumit Seth