Overseas cricketers playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) have been assured of travel arrangements to fly back home at the end of the tournament.
The promise by the BCCI to get everyone home came on the day Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said players in the IPL would not get priority for travel. On Tuesday, Australia announced a ban on all air traffic from India till May 15 following a surge in coronavirus cases.
In an email to the teams and players, the BCCI’s interim chief executive officer said the Indian cricket board was in touch with government authorities to firm up travel plans of foreign cricketers when the tournament concludes.
Three Australians decided to leave the IPL prematurely over the past three days citing ‘personal reasons’. India reported nearly 320,000 Covid-19 cases and 2762 deaths on Monday.
The email from the BCCI sought to dispel fears of foreign players being stuck in India because of travel restrictions.
“We understand that many of you are apprehensive about how you will get back home once the tournament concludes, which is natural and understandable. We want to apprise you that you have nothing to worry about. The BCCI will do everything to ensure that you reach your respective destinations seamlessly.
“The BCCI is monitoring the situation very closely and is working with the government authorities to make arrangements to get you home once the tournament concludes. Be rest assured that the tournament is not over for BCCI till each one of you has reached your home, safe and sound,” BCCI’s interim chief executive officer Hemang Amin wrote in an email to teams, players and the support staff.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who is set to return home, told The Age and Herald on Tuesday that the ‘dire Covid situation’, ‘bubble fatigue’ and ‘lack of motivation’ were the reasons why he decided to fly back to Australia.
Mumbai Indians batsman Chris Lynn was the latest player to raises concern about getting back home. He told News Corp media about asking Cricket Australia to charter a flight for players once the tournament was over. But Morrison’s statement and the travel ban meant there was no guarantee of cricketers being able to fly back at the end of their respective IPL stints.
“They have travelled there privately. This wasn’t part of an Australian tour. They’re under their own resources and they’ll be using those resources too, I’m sure, to see them return to Australia in accordance with their own arrangements,” Morrison was quoted by The Guardian.
Zampa’s team mate at Royal Challengers Bangalore Kane Richardson and Rajasthan Royals’ Andrew Tye are the two others who have left for Australia before the travel ban was enforced.
“Obviously the COVID situation over here is pretty dire. I just felt, rocking up to training and stuff, obviously, I wasn’t playing in the team as well, I was going to training and I wasn’t finding the motivation,” Zampa told The Age and The Herald.
“[There were] a few other things like bubble fatigue and the chance to get home, once all the news broke about the flights and everything. I thought this was the best time to make the call.”
In all 35 Australians are part of the IPL, including 13 players, 11 coaches, four commentators, two umpires and four support staff.
In a statement on Tuesday, Cricket Australia said they are having ‘regular dialogues with players, coaches, match officials and commentators on the ground in India’. “We will continue to liaise closely with the Australian Government following today’s announcement that direct flights from India to Australia will be paused till May 15…”
The email from the interim CEO also tried to justify reasons for conducting the tournament as the second wave swept through India with record cases and deaths.
“While you go about playing the sport, we all love, you are also doing something really important. As some of you have said, ‘if we can help distract people from all the troubles of recent times, even if it is for a short while, we have done a great job.’ When you all walk out onto the field, you are bringing hope to millions of people who have tuned in. If, even for a minute, you can bring a smile on someone’s face, then you have done well. While you are professionals and will play to win, this time you are also playing for something much more important…. humanity.”
India’s Beijing Olympics gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra wrote in The Indian Express about how cricketers ‘should realise how privileged they are to be able to play the IPL in these times’.
The IPL is being played at six venues but in a phased manner. The first leg of the tournament was played in Chennai and Mumbai while the second, which began on Monday, will be at Ahmedabad and Delhi. Bangalore and Kolkata are the other venues and the play-offs and final will be held at Ahmedabad. The league matches will end on May 23, followed by the qualifiers from May 25 to 28, the eliminator on May 26 and the final on May 30.