India travel ban, IPL stars mull next step

·3-min read

The federal government has halted all passenger flights from India to Australia until May 15, clouding the return of Australia's best cricketers.

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.

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 Cricket Australia.

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."

Andrew Tye recently cut short his IPL stint, returning to Australia while it was still viable to do so via a commercial flight.

Compatriots Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson intended to do the same, but are yet to touch down in 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."

Tuesday's development 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.

Warner on Tuesday posted a photo of him and Sunrisers Hyderabad teammate Kane Williamson, both wearing hazmat suits, aboard a flight to Delhi.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan says it is "galling" Australians, including IPL players, travelled to India given the nation's COVID-19 cases.