Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed as “absurd” claims from Michael Slater that he has blood on his hands for banning Australian citizens from returning home from India.
Former Australia batsman Slater’s comments came as the Indian Premier League’s biosecurity bubble was breached by multiple COVID-19 cases, including two teammates of Pat Cummins.
Test vice-captain Cummins and his Kolkata Knight Riders teammate and fellow Australian Ben Cutting were slated to face Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ahmedabad on Monday night.
But the game was postponed after Kolkata’s Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier tested positive for coronavirus.
Cummins, Cutting and compatriot David Hussey, a member of Kolkata’s support staff, are isolating in India.
If the IPL was suspended, Cummins and others among a group of almost 40 Australian players, coaches and officials will be stuck in India because the Morrison government has banned incoming travellers from India until at least May 15.
Slater, who had been commentating in India and is attempting to return to Australia, launched a tirade against the prime minister on Monday night.
“If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace!!,” Slater wrote on Twitter.
“Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this.”
But Morrison hit back at the former cricketer on Tuesday when asked on the Nine Network’s Today Show if he had blood on his hands.
“No, that is obviously absurd,” Mr Morrison said.
“We have a temporary pause in place because we have seen a rapid escalation in the infection rate of people who have travelled out of India that is putting enormous pressure on our system and we need to ensure we can bring people safely home from India.
“It’s a pause to May 15.”
Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson last week fled the IPL, returning home via Qatar.
Any Australian attempting that journey now risks jail time and fines but the prime minister said such sanctions were “extremely remote”.
Some Australian players remain hopeful commercial flights will resume by the end of the month while others are considering contingency plans that involving a two-week stopover in another nation.
Cummins last week donated $50,000 to help India combat its COVID-19 crisis.
The fast bowler initially pledged the money to India’s PM Cares Fund but overnight on social media on Monday said he diverted his donation to UNICEF Australia’s India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal.
Cummins is playing a central role in logistical discussions between stressed Australian cricketers, Cricket Australia (CA) and the players’ union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association.
A potential charter flight, which would need to be approved by federal government, has formed part of those talks.
However, CA chief executive Nick Hockley said on Monday “there’s no suggestion at the moment of any charter flight”.
Complicating matters is Australia’s limited-overs tour of the West Indies in June, with Cummins and other stars facing a tight turnaround if their homecoming is delayed.