Australians involved in the Indian Premier League (IPL) are “anxious” about how they will get home from the tournament as the COVID-19 crisis continues in India but they are not looking for any “free rides”, the head of the players’ union reported.

The Australian federal government has halted all direct commercial and repatriation flights from India to Australia until May 15. The IPL is scheduled to finish on May 31, so any extension of the travel ban would create issues for Cricket Australia.

A group of almost 40 Australian players, coaches, umpires and broadcast staff may yet return home via an end-of-tournament charter flight, but that would require government approval. “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,” federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck told ABC radio. “There aren’t any decisions that have been made yet with respect to (approval for a charter flight for) the cricketers.”

“As you’d imagine, they’re all pretty anxious,” Australian Cricketers’ Association Chief Executive Todd Greenberg told Sydney radio station 2GB. “They’re in probably one of the biggest hotspots that we’ve seen since COVID so we’re just trying to make sure that they’re all safe and secure and they can fulfil their commitments and … we can get them home as soon as we can.”

Pat Cummins, one of the league’s most expensive foreign imports, said that he felt “helpless” watching the situation in India and announced that he was donating US$50,000 to buy oxygen equipment.

 

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“There has been quite a bit of discussion over here as to whether it is appropriate for the IPL to continue while COVID-19 infection rates remain high,” the Kolkata Knight Riders’ bowler wrote on Twitter. “I am advised that the Indian government is of the view that playing the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day at an otherwise difficult situation for the country,” he added. Cummins also urged other “privileged” players to also donate.

India recorded 323,144 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 2,771 deaths, taking the total death toll to 197,894, but the IPL is still carried on despite the health crisis.