Australia’s players are stranded in India after this year’s Indian Premier League was postponed following another positive coronavirus test.
Indian cricket authorities made the sensational decision after an emergency meeting called to deal with the growing crisis within the tournament’s supposed biosecure bubble.
Players were told the tournament had been cancelled. It was unclear on Tuesday night whether attempts would be made to conclude the competition at a later date, but there was speculation it could be completed in the UAE later in the year.
A day after superstar quick Pat Cummins came uncomfortably close to COVID-19, a teammate of David Warner – India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha – returned a positive test.
The Sunrisers, the team coached by Australian Trevor Bayliss and where Tom Moody is the director of cricket, are the third franchise to have a staff member or player test positive. Players have been sent into a four-day lockdown.
The announcement by the BCCI and the league came after pressure from at least one franchise for the tournament to be halted.
“I’m hearing postponement, cancellation, maybe moving to Mumbai, I’ll wait for a release,” Cummins said on Fox’s The Back Page show on Tuesday night. “It seems to be changing every couple of minutes now.”
On Tuesday night, Australian players were unsure how they would return home after the federal government last week paused travel from India to Australia until May 15.
Players on the ground in India had said before the announcement that they would explore travelling to Dubai as an emergency exit strategy, while the Maldives - a route chosen by commentators Michael Slater and Kevin Pietersen - was also an option.
The Indian board, IPL and franchises have reassured non-Indian cricketers they will do everything they can to ensure players return home safely.
“I just got a call from IPL that the tournament stands cancelled due to additional COVID cases that have come to light,” an Australian player was told in a note by his franchise.
“It’s sad but the right call under the circumstances. I will get back to everyone on the logistics involved in getting everyone back to your homes and your families as soon as possible. Please don’t stress about anything, we will speak soon.”
Saha joins two players from Cummins’ team, Kolkata Knight Riders, and members from the Chennai Super Kings to have returned positive results.
“The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect,” the IPL said in a statement.
“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind.
“These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is 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.
“The BCCI would like to thank all the healthcare workers, state associations, players, support staff, franchises, sponsors, partners and all the service providers who have tried their best to organise IPL 2021 even in these extremely difficult times.”
Cricket Australia and Australia’s players’ association issued a joint statement saying they would not be seeking preferential treatment for the cricketers.
“Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association understand the decision of the BCCI to indefinitely postpone the 2021 Indian Premier League for the safety and wellbeing of all participants,” they said.
“CA is in direct contact with the BCCI as they work through plans to ensure the safe accommodation and repatriation of Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators back home to Australia.
“CA and the ACA respect the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15 and will not seek exemptions.
“CA and the ACA thank the BCCI for their efforts and cooperation for the safe repatriation of all participants at the IPL.”
ACA chief Todd Greenberg said before the postponement of the tournament that players had gone to India “with their eyes wide open”.
“They do want to see the tournament finished, but they also clearly want to come home at the end, and that’s where the concern comes, because there’s just not a definitive plan on how that’s going to happen at the moment,” Greenberg said on Radio 2GB.