Aussie cricketers Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa have been left in limbo in Mumbai after an Australian government travel ban scuppered their plans to fly home from India.
The federal government has halted all passenger flights from India to Australia until May 15, clouding the return of many of Australia's best cricketers.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday that direct commercial and repatriation flights from India had been suspended because of growing COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine, while indirect flights would also not be possible.
The federal government will review the measures closer to May 15 as they seek to help approximately 8,000 Australians return home from India, where the army has been called in to help overwhelmed hospitals amid a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections.
Richardson and Zampa - who both play for Royal Challengers Banglaore - were two of the three Aussie players that decided to quit their India Premier League franchises in a bid to flee the worsening virus crisis gripping the sub-continent nation.
The third Aussie player was Rajasthan Royals paceman Andrew Tye, who announced his intentions to return home one day earlier than the other two, in a move that ultimately proved crucial.
While Tye was able to fly home to Sydney where he will spend two weeks in hotel quarantine, Richardson and Zampa were unable to get out of India before the Australian Prime Minister announced the border closures on Tuesday.
It's understood the pair are stranded in Mumbai and away from their teammates after giving up their lucrative contracts and leaving the IPL biosecurity bubble.
Richardson and Zampa are hopeful of returning to Australia via Doha, but there are doubts they will be able to fly out of Mumbai, leaving the pair facing an uncertain future.
The Prime Minister made it clear Australians involved in the IPL - a list headlined by Pat Cummins, David Warner and Steve Smith - would not jump the queue for repatriation flights whenever they resume.
"It's done on vulnerability," Morrison told reporters.
"They travelled there privately under those arrangements, this wasn't part of an Australian tour.
"They're under their own resources and they'll be using those resources to, I'm sure, see them return to Australia."
Cricket Australia (CA) could yet arrange a charter flight for its IPL contingent, but that would require sign-off from federal and state governments.
"We will assist where possible," CA said in a joint statement with the players' union.
"We will continue to liaise closely with the Australian government."
The Indian Premier League is scheduled to finish on May 31, while the regular season ends on May 24, so any extension of the travel ban would create substantial headaches for CA.
Warner on Tuesday posted a photo of him and Sunrisers Hyderabad teammate Kane Williamson, both wearing hazmat suits, aboard a flight to Delhi.
IPL boss urges player to keep competition alive
Tuesday's developments came as IPL boss Hemang Amin took the unusual step of writing to players and staff, trying to ease growing anxiety while advising that COVID-19 tests would now be required every second day.
"You are totally safe within the bubble," Amin wrote.
"You are also playing for something much more important ... humanity."
CA has been in regular dialogue with its players, who are taking part in the lucrative Twenty20 tournament while on annual leave, and the federal government.
There are countless complicating factors for the governing body to navigate, even before the clout of India's cricket board is taken into account.
Opinion is believed to be mixed among Australian players, coaches, umpires and broadcast staff involved in the IPL.
Some are content to stay on and finish the tournament because they feel the IPL's biosecurity bubble is working as a shield from an escalating health crisis.
Others were already intending to travel elsewhere after the T20 event.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan says it is "galling" Australians, including IPL players, travelled to India given the nation's COVID-19 cases.
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