Foreign IPL cricketers scramble to escape India Covid fiasco

Sydney, Australia: On Wednesday, cricket authorities in Australia, New Zealand, and England rushed to evacuate top players from Covid-affected India, following the cancellation of the lucrative Indian Premier League due to a series of positive tests.

Cricket Australia said plans were underway to fly 38 players and staff -- including superstars Steve Smith, David Warner, and Pat Cummins -- to the relative safety of the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the next "two to three days".

Eight of England's 11 players have returned to London, and New Zealand Cricket has announced that its Test players will travel to the United Kingdom ahead of their series there and the World Test Championship final against India next month.

The Indian Premier League, the richest Twenty20 cricket competition in the world, was suspended on Tuesday after many cases were discovered in the tournament's bio-secure "bubble" of six cities.

It has placed Australian cricketers in limbo, as they are not allowed to return home until at least May 15, after Canberra closed its borders and threatened anyone entering from India with jail time.

With the assistance of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the party is likely to be flown back to Australia on a charter flight once the ban is lifted.

"The BCCI is working through arrangements to repatriate all the players, the support staff, and umpires commentators as quickly and safely as possible," said Nick Hockley, Cricket Australia's interim CEO.

They are "working to move the entire cohort out of India... the BCCI has been working on a range of options. That's now narrowed down to the Maldives and Sri Lanka".

The group departing India will not include 79-Test veteran Michael Hussey, the Chennai Super Kings batting coach, who has tested positive and will remain in isolation.

"He's in for a stint of isolation in his hotel room for at least 10 days, but he's in pretty good spirits," said Todd Greenberg, the Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive.

On Instagram, Warner shared a drawing of his family made by one of his daughters, along with the caption: "Please, Daddy, return home as soon as possible. We miss you terribly and adore you." In just a few hours, it had nearly 850,000 likes.

 'People are dying' 

Two more cricketers were confirmed as testing positive for coronavirus -- Delhi Capitals leg-spinner Amit Mishra and Sunrisers Hyderabad wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha.

New Zealand Cricket said it was trying to organize a charter to Britain for Test players Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, and Mitchell Santner, as well as three players signed to English county sides.

Britain is currently only allowing its own citizens to travel home from India but a New Zealand Cricket spokesman said "we're confident of getting border exemptions".

England's Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Moeen Ali, and Sam and Tom Curran are beginning a 10-day hotel quarantine after arriving back in Britain, the England and Wales Cricket Board said.

World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan, and Chris Jordan have yet to leave India but are expected back by the end of the week.

India, which has reported more than 20 million infections so far, with more than 220,000 deaths, is due to host the Twenty20 World Cup from October.

The cash-rich IPL attracts many of the world's top cricketers, including players from Australia, England, and South Africa.

Cricket South Africa also said it was in contact with their players and support staff, working to bring them home.

The IPL started in early April, with the decision to go ahead in the face of a deepening health crisis prompting criticism from some, while others defended it as a welcome distraction.

"It has been unedifying at times watching this tournament when people are dying just up the road," former England captain Nasser Hussain wrote in the Daily Mail.

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