There are close to 40 Australians in the IPL bubble comprising players, coaching staff and commentators
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.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
No Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav in India’s squad of 20 for WTC final and England Tests
KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha were picked subject to “fitness clearance”
There was no Hardik Pandya or Kuldeep Yadav as India named a squad of 20 players, including two – KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha – subject to “fitness clearance”, as well as four standby players for the final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand and the subsequent five-Test series against England in August-September. India will play the WTC final from June 18 to 22 in Southampton and the Test series against England from August 4, starting in Nottingham, to September 14, with the last Test scheduled for Manchester.
Virat Kohli’s side is expected to leave for England on June 2, and keeping in mind the length of the tour as well as possible contingencies because of the Covid-19 pandemic, India are carrying a total of 24 players, their reserves’ list reading Abhimanyu Easwaran, the opening batter, and three fast bowlers: Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan and Arzan Nagwaswalla.
Rahul underwent surgery for appendicitis in early May after he complained of “severe abdomen pain” during the IPL. At the time, the doctors were understood to have told the Punjab Kings that Rahul would be able to resume all activity in a week’s time.
Saha, the other player who has to prove his fitness in time for the tour, tested positive for Covid-19 on May 4, the same day the IPL was postponed indefinitely. Saha, who was a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad, is still in Delhi, where he returned the positive test. It is understood that he would have to undergo 14 days in isolation and be able to move out only after a negative test. As things stand, he is still exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 including the loss of smell.
Of the players dropped from the squad that played against England at home earlier this year, Pandya did have a question mark over him since he has not bowled regularly for some time now, with Kohli saying that he wanted to preserve Pandya the bowler for the Tests in England. He had a shoulder niggle during the IPL, and didn’t bowl at all in the seven matches he played for the Mumbai Indians. He did, however, bowl a nine-over burst in the third and final ODI against England.
As for Kuldeep, while he has been a part of the India squad recently, he has not had many games. Of his seven Tests, he has played only one in the last two years – the second Test against England in February this year – and he got to bowl just 12.2 overs overall, returning 0 for 16 and 2 for 25 as India won by 317 runs. His previous Test appearance before that was back in January 2019 in Sydney, where he picked up 5 for 99 in the first Australia innings.
With Axar Patel making a big splash on Test debut in the England series with a haul of 27 wickets from three games and India mostly preferring one or both of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, depending on conditions, Kuldeep’s chances of making the cut took a hit.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul (subject to fitness clearance), Wriddhiman Saha (wk; subject to fitness clearance). Standby players: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Arzan Nagwaswalla
More to follow…
India set to name squads for England Tests, WTC final over the weekend
The selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency
The Indian squads for both the World Test Championship final and the five-Test England series are set to be picked over the weekend. It is understood that the Virat Kohli-lead Indian squad is likely to depart for England on June 2.
Keeping in mind the extensive length of the tour, spanning between June and mid-September, the selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency. Even the ICC recently approved increasing the squad strength from 23 to 30 (including support staff) for global events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WTC final between India and New Zealand is scheduled to be held in Southampton between June 18 and 22. As per the existing schedule, the Test series is meant to begin only on August 4, with the first match at Trent Bridge followed by Lord’s (August 12-16), Leeds (August 25-29), The Oval (September 2-6) and Old Trafford (September 10-14).
As per the previous plan, before the UK government in April put India on the red list of countries from where travellers are barred during the pandemic, the BCCI was looking at picking two separate squads with the first batch meant for the WTC final and the second batch leaving closer to the England tour.
That is one of the key questions that the BCCI needs to resolve: what the players would do in the nearly four-week gap before the squad reassembles for the England Test series. In April, the ECB announced that the Indians would be arriving with an inflated squad and would play two intra-squad practice matches in July. Those two matches replaced the original warm-up schedule comprising two previously planned four-day fixtures between Indians and India A in July. The ECB, in agreement with BCCI, had postponed the India A tour due to the pandemic.
The other question for the BCCI deals with players wanting to travel with their families keeping in mind the long tour. With the UK imposing a hard quarantine for all in-bound travellers from India (this applied even to the England players and support staff that returned from the IPL this week), the BCCI needs to figure whether it can get exemptions for the families. Currently, the ICC along with the ECB are speaking to the UK government to get exemptions for the players for the WTC final.
Both those points are likely to feature when the BCCI’s top brass meets soon, which is even likely over the weekend once the selectors submit the final list of names for the enlarged squad. It is also likely that the BCCI might hold back announcing the squad until it has the nod from the Indian government authorities as well as the ICC and ECB on the travel exemptions and the quarantine rules.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Covid-19 in Pakistan – PCB approaches Emirates Cricket Board to host remainder of PSL 2021 in the UAE
The franchises had requested the PCB to shift the games out of Karachi because of the pandemic
The PCB has formally approached the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to host the remaining games of the rescheduled 2021 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the UAE. The earlier plan was to play the matches in Karachi, but the PCB has decided against it following a request from the six franchises as well as advice from the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC), which asked the board to avoid playing in Karachi because of the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo, the franchises had written a letter to the board last week, asking for the tournament to be played in the Emirates, and the PCB, which had been reviewing the existing plans, has now accepted the proposal. It is understood that the PCB has also cancelled its booking with the hotel in Karachi where it had reserved 407 rooms.
The 2021 edition of the PSL was suspended after 14 games – played between February 20 and March 3, all in Karachi – following an outbreak of cases among players and support staff. After a date for resumption was finalised – June 2 to June 20 – the franchises took part in a replacement draft to plug holes in their line-ups because a number of overseas players would not be able to take part in the games on the new dates.
The changed situation with the pandemic, however, made franchises nervous about the situation, which led to them approaching the PCB.
Pakistan, meanwhile, has announced a decision to curtail inbound flights to the country from May 5 to May 20. And a national lockdown has also been put in place in Pakistan from today till May 15.
A move to the UAE would not be without its own logistical and operational issues, though. Flights to the country from Pakistan are currently operating at a severely reduced frequency. And June is not a month in which top-level cricket is often played in the UAE, because of the oppressive heat at that time of the year.
More to follow…
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
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