The vast majority of Australia’s 38-strong Indian Premier League contingent is expected to depart for the Maldives on Thursday, beginning their long and indirect journey home from the aborted Twenty20 tournament.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and franchises are overseeing arrangements for outbound players after the IPL was halted because of COVID-19 cases among players and staff.
However, Australians involved in the IPL are unable to return home until May 15 because of the federal government’s ban on all incoming travellers from coronavirus-ravaged India.
Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) confirmed on Wednesday that players, coaches and other officials were set to fly out soon then have a long stopover in Sri Lanka or the Maldives.
It’s understood the BCCI has now all but finalised plans for the group to shift to the Maldives, where Australian commentator Michael Slater fled to earlier this week.
“The Australians will reach the Maldives tomorrow, finish their quarantine and then reach Australia safely,” BCCI president Sourav Ganguly told The Indian Express.
“I don’t see any issue. They will all be fine.”
Mike Hussey, who is an assistant coach at Chennai Super Kings, will be unable to travel with the group as he continues to serve a 10-day isolation period in a Delhi hotel after testing positive for COVID-19.
The BCCI has already signed off on IPL departure plans for those from England, New Zealand, South Africa, the West Indies and other parts of the world.
Australia’s national cabinet is set to meet on Friday.
The worst-case scenario for Pat Cummins and compatriots would be an extension of the ban on travellers from India, meaning they would need to spend a fortnight in the Maldives then a further two weeks in Australia’s hotel quarantine system.
But it appears that is unlikely to happen, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison widely expected to end the ban on May 15.
Any Australia-bound charter flight for the IPL contingent would need to be approved by the federal government.
The slanging match between Slater, whose frustration and anxiety is shared by many Australians involved in the IPL, and Mr Morrison’s government continued on Thursday.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud accused Slater of “acting like a spoilt prat” after the former Test batsman tweeted that Mr Morrison had “blood” on his hands and should take his “private jet and come and witness dead bodies on the street (in India)”.
“I understand his frustration and I understand his deep concern for the people of India,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
ACA chief executive Todd Greenberg admitted the travel ban had created anxiety among Australians involved in the IPL.
“They’re human beings, some of them are fathers and husbands,” Greenberg said.
“They’re under enormous amounts of stress.”