IPL 2021 – Charter flight home for Australians
Nick Hockley, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has said there are currently no plans for a charter flight to get Australians – players and others – involved in the IPL back home at the end of the tournament.
Hockley, speaking to SEN Radio, mentioned that the players in India “are generally in good spirits” despite the huge surge in Covid-19 cases, but his comments had come well before news that two cricketers – Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier – of the Kolkata Knight Riders had tested positive for the virus. The Knight Riders contingent has Pat Cummins and Ben Cutting among their players, while David Hussey is a team mentor.
Last week, the Australian government had suspended passenger flights from India – and the use of connecting flights – until at least May 15 because of the increase of Covid-19 cases in hotel quarantine that are originating from India. The government tightened restrictions to the extent that it is now a criminal offence with the potential of jail time for anyone – including Australian citizens – to arrive from India within this period.
Chris Lynn, who is with the Mumbai Indians, raised the prospect of a charter flight first, but that notion came in for criticism from some quarters given the number of Australians trying to return from India.
“There’s no suggestion at the moment of any charter flight,” Hockley said. “We’re working closely and talking closely with the ACA [Australian Cricketers’ Association], with the players and with the BCCI to make sure everyone’s okay and the people have got full information.
“We’ve been in touch with the players there and they are generally in good spirits. The work the BCCI has done around the bubble means they are feeling safe and secure, and those we’ve talked to are generally planning to complete their playing commitments.
“The BCCI have come out and said they understand and want to support the players in making sure they get home safely at the end. The tournament doesn’t finish until May 30, so for the moment it’s monitor the situation and as we get closer to the end of the tournament we’ll need to see where the situation is at.”
Michael Slater, who is commentating at the IPL, is among those to have criticised the Australian government’s policy, tweeting on Monday: “If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out 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!
— Michael Slater (@mj_slats) May 3, 2021
Andrew Tye of the Rajasthan Royals and Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa of the Royal Challengers Bangalore cut short their IPL stints and returned to Australia last week, the latter two getting home via a connecting flight shortly before that avenue was blocked.
There remain nearly 40 Australians – players, support staffers and commentators – involved with the IPL with indications being they are all committed to seeing the tournament through to its conclusion.
While CA is effectively not involved in the players’ participation at the tournament as it comes during their annual leave, the board and the ACA are staying in touch and liaising with the government on the situation.
“The players have made their own decision to go and compete in the IPL on their own time, so technically they are there under their own auspices,” Hockley said. “But of course, we’re very concerned for their safety, we’re very concerned for their wellbeing and we are concerned to make sure at the end of the tournament that everyone gets home safely.”
Todd Greenberg, the chief executive of the ACA, had earlier said, “There’s no free rides or any expectations from our players”.
CA, ACA join hands with UNICEF Australia to help Covid-ravaged India
On Monday, CA and the ACA announced a fund-raising drive with charity UNICEF Australia to respond to the crisis in India. CA is making an initial donation of AUD 50,000 (USD 38,600 approx), matching a donation made by Cummins last week. The former Australia quick Brett Lee provided a similar amount by donating a bitcoin.
“Australians and Indians share a special bond and, for many, our mutual love of cricket is central to that friendship,” Hockley said. “It has been distressing and saddening to learn of the suffering of so many of our Indian sisters and brothers during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and our hearts go out to everyone impacted.”
UNICEF Australia’s “India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal” is procuring and installing oxygen equipment in hospitals to treat seriously ill patients, providing testing equipment and “supporting acceleration of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out”, the charity said.
Various players and IPL teams have pledged financial support too.
Shikhar Dhawan, Sachin Tendulkar, Jaydev Unadkat, and Nicholas Pooran had offered to help in various ways. Unadkat pledged 10% of his salary from the Royals, while Dhawan, of the Delhi Capitals, and Tendulkar have contributed towards the Mission Oxygen initiative.
Meanwhile, last week the Royals announced a contribution of over USD 1 million and the Royal Challengers have also pledged financial support and will auction a special kit to raise funds.
Reuters contributed to this story.