MELBOURNE: A chartered flight to bring back Australian cricketers after the IPL in India is under consideration, the country’s players union said on Wednesday even as sports minister Richard Colbeck made it clear that such a move has not yet been cleared by the government Down Under.
Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) chief Todd Greenberg said Cricket Australia will talk to the IPL franchise owners on this arrangement but conceded that it will not be a simple thing.
“That’s one of the conversations we’re having with Cricket Australia at the moment about whether or not that’s something that’s available to us,” Greenberg said on 2GB radio as quoted by ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.
“We can also work with all the owners of the Premier League franchises who are effectively contracting the players. There’s certainly a conversation to be had about that,” he added.
“They’re not simple things to organise, as you’d imagine. If we can try to find a seamless approach to get them home safely that’s something between us and CA and our players that we’ll work on.”
The BCCI has already assured the IPL’s foreign recruits that their safe return home will be its responsibility once the tournament ends on May 30. India is facing an explosion of COVID-19 cases and the nation’s health infrastructure has been severely strained dealing with lakhs of daily new cases.
“Be rest assured that the tournament is not over for BCCI till each one of you has reached your home, safe and sound,” the Indian Board’s COO Hemang Amin said on Tuesday in a letter addressed to the players.
Any such chartered flight would require the approval of the Australian government and Colbeck said no decision has been taken on this matter as yet.
“There aren’t any decisions that have been made yet with respect to (approval for a charter flight for) the cricketers,” Colbeck told ABC radio.
“One of the reasons for the pause was to give our hotel quarantine a little bit of space because of the load we’ve seen out of India,” he said.
As a second wave of COVID-19 infections battered India, the Australian government on Tuesday suspended air travel with the country besides asking players to make their “own arrangements” for return.
Even before that announcement, the fear of being locked out drove the likes of Andrew Tye to take an early flight back to Australia along with Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa.
Mumbai Indians’ Australian batsman Chris Lynn had also said that he hoped Cricket Australia to arrange a chartered flight for those who have stayed back.
As of now, the IPL still has 14 Australian players, including big names like Steve Smith (Delhi Capitals), David Warner (SunRisers Hyderabad) and Cummins.
Ricky Ponting (DC) and Simon Katich (Royal Challengers Bangalore) are among the high-profile Australian coaches, while iconic former players such as Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee and Lisa Sthalekar are part of the tournament’s commentary team.
The ACA chief, however, said that the players will not ask for any preferential treatment and jump the queue if and when the Australian government evacuates its citizens from India. About 9000 Australians are in India trying to return home.
“One thing I can tell you is our players are under no expectations to look for specific favours,” Greenberg said.
“There’s no free rides or any expectations from our players. What they are looking for is the right information so they can plan accordingly.
Greenberg said the majority of players feel “really comfortable” in the tournament’s bio-security bubble and intend to finish their commitment.
However, they remain understandably uneasy about what will happen beyond the final.
“They’re all pretty anxious. They’re in one of the biggest hotspots we’ve seen since COVID. They’re very anxious about getting home at the end.
“But also anxious about what a beautiful place India has been … and they’re seeing such devastation.”