Indian Premier League chiefs have made a stunning decision to suspend the competition indefinitely as a fresh Covid-19 bombshell rocks the Twenty20 competition.
It comes after three people associated Kolkata Knight Riders - Pat Cummins' franchise - tested positive to COVID-19 on Monday.
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That forced the postponement of the first match in the IPL, before officials then agreed on Tuesday to reschedule the Super Kings' match against the Rajasthan Royals, with two members of the Chennai team also testing positive.
It's now emerged that Sunrisers Hyderabad’s fixture against the Mumbai Indians was also set to be postponed after Wriddhiman Saha also tested positive for Covid-19.
With positive tests at four different franchises, officials were left with little choice but to suspend the lucrative T20 tournament indefinitely.
The captain of Aussie star Steve Smith's Delhi Capitals - coached by Australian great Ricky Ponting - tested positive, forcing the side into isolation.
Australians David Warner and Mitchell Marsh will also be isolated after the wicketkeeper at their franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, tested positive.
Fellow countrymen Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey, all at the Kolkata Knight Riders, had already been isolating after two players at their outfit tested positive.
And Australian fast bowler Jason Behrendorff is also caught up in the outbreak with three staffers at his Chennai Super Kings testing positive.
As Indian society buckles with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases and more than 220,000 deaths from the virus, the IPL halted competition.
"The tournament stands suspended," IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said.
"Right now, we can't say when we can reschedule it."
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) voted unanimously to suspend the tournament, which had been due to finish on May 30.
In a statement, the BCCI said it was "imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.
"The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021," a BCCI statement said.
The Super Kings' chief executive Kasi Viswanathan, bowling coach L Balaji and another staffer, believed to be a bus driver, tested positive on Sunday but returned negative reports on Monday, according to reports in India.
Three people associated with the Knight Riders had already tested positive to COVID-19.
The entire Delhi squad - the last team to play against that franchise on April 29 - are now also in isolation.
Australia's Delhi quartet join paceman Cummins and fellow Australians Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey in isolation in India.
The Knight Riders' Chakravarthy and Warrier tested positive in Ahmedabad with reports suggesting they left the IPL's biosecurity bubble for medical treatment.
IPL organisers are reportedly considering shifting all games of the lucrative Twenty20 tournament to Mumbai as the outbreak creates political friction in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed as "absurd" claims from Michael Slater that he has blood on his hands for banning Australian citizens from returning home from India.
Former Australia batsman Slater, who had been commentating in India and is attempting to return to Australia, launched a tirade against the prime minister on Monday night.
"If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It's a disgrace!!," Slater wrote on Twitter.
"Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this."
But Morrison hit back at the former cricketer on Tuesday when asked on the Nine Network's Today Show if he had blood on his hands.
"No, that is obviously absurd," Morrison said.
"We have a temporary pause in place because we have seen a rapid escalation in the infection rate of people who have travelled out of India that is putting enormous pressure on our system and we need to ensure we can bring people safely home from India.
"It's a pause to May 15."
Australian cricketers Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson last week fled the IPL, returning home via Qatar.
But any Australian attempting that journey now risks jail time and fines amid the travel ban, though the prime minister said such sanctions were "extremely remote".
Some Australian players remain hopeful commercial flights will resume by the end of the month while others are considering contingency plans involving a two-week stopover in another nation.
Cummins last week donated $50,000 to help India combat its COVID-19 crisis.
The fast bowler initially pledged the money to India's PM Cares Fund but overnight on social media on Monday said he had diverted his donation to UNICEF Australia's India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal.
Cummins is playing a central role in logistical discussions between stressed Australian cricketers, Cricket Australia (CA) and the players' union, the Australian Cricketers' Association.
Complicating matters is Australia's limited-overs tour of the West Indies in June, with Cummins and other stars facing a tight turnaround if their homecoming is delayed.
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