A mass exodus of Australian players, coaches and support staff to the Maldives is the expected remedy to a dilemma created by the postponement of the 2021 IPL and the current closure of the Australian border to citizens currently in India during its rampant Covid-19 outbreak. There are close to 40 Australians in the IPL bubble comprising players, coaching staff and commentators.
The likes of Pat Cummins, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Ricky Ponting, Simon Katich and company are expected to join the commentator Michael Slater, who had already headed to the Maldives as a temporary post in the wake of blanket bans on entry to Australian citizens who have recently been in India, a state of play that will exist until at least May 15.
The exceptions will be the likes of allrounder Dan Christian, who has a deal to play in the UK later this year. But the UK is currently allowing only its citizens and residents to fly in from India, so it remains to be seen what route he will take as Dubai - often a stopover between India and the UK - is not allowing flights from India either.
"Once we flew out of Australia we knew we'd signed up for 14 days quarantine coming home so you feel a bit further from getting home, but when the hard border shut no one has ever experienced that before," Cummins told The Back Page on Fox Sports. "[It has] added a bit of anxiety for the Aussies over here but we signed up to play the tournament until the start of June so hopefully it all reopens on May 15 and we can get back.
"Think we are all hoping we can get home like we would normally plan and the borders open on May 15, whether it's [a] private [flight] or not we wouldn't be allowed back in [at the moment]. Cricket Australia have been brilliant along with the ACA, they are working closely with the government to get the latest information, if we can't get home it won't be for lack of trying from all those involved."
Cricket Australia's interim chief executive Nick Hockley, team performance chief Ben Oliver and the Australian Cricketers' Association CEO Todd Greenberg were all in urgent meetings on Tuesday night aimed at clarifying the situation for the freelancing players.
"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," a joint statement from CA and ACA 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."
On April 27, Hemang Amin, the interim chief executive officer of the BCCI, had sent an email to all eight franchises saying the IPL understood players and support staff would be "apprehensive" about returning home. But he reassured them saying: "the BCCI will do everything to ensure that you reach your respective destinations seamlessly. Be rest assured that the tournament is not over for BCCI till each one of you has reached your home, safe and sound."
On Tuesday the BCCI was busy working out with franchises what was the best and safest way for players to reach home. On Monday, Hockley had stated that there had been "no suggestion at the moment" of a charter flight for the Australians in the IPL.
On Monday Slater had condemned the Australian government's decision to bar all travelers from India, including its own citizens until May 15. "If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home," an indignant Slater wrote on Twitter, addressing the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. "It's a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out [the] quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.
"And for those who think this is a money exercise, well, forget it. This is what I do for a living and I have not made a penny having left early. So please stop the abuse and think of the thousands dying in India each day. It's called empathy. If only our government had some."
Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye had been among the Australian cricketers who had managed to exit India before the IPL was paused and the Australian border shut. Morrison called for patience from citizens currently locked outside their own country on a television interview with Nine on Tuesday morning.
"I thank all of those who are in this difficult situation for their patience and their understanding," Morrison said. "I am working to bring them home safely. I am going to take decisions that I believe will protect Australia from a third wave and help me to be able to reach out and bring more Australians safely home from places where they are in difficult situations."
"I'd just ask them [the cricketers], like the many Australians that are in India at present, to be patient and understanding. This is a two-week pause. It's not a permanent pause, it's not a four-month lockdown."
New Zealand players at the IPL
New Zealand recently lifted its travel ban for India but there are limited flights between the two countries, and the New Zealand players will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine whenever they get home. NZC issued a statement saying it was liaising with different authorities to find a solution.
"NZC remains in contact with the New Zealand contingent in the Indian Premier League. The players are in a relatively safe environment and those within affected teams are in isolation," the statement said. "We'll continue to liaise with the BCCI, the ECB and New Zealand government authorities in terms of managing their situation - but at this juncture it's too early to discuss potential options."