IPL players finally head home before eyeing next tour
CA CEO Hockley addresses safe return of Aussie IPL contingent and looks ahead to next month's limited-overs series in the Caribbean
31 May 2021, 05:48 PM AEST
Cricket Australia's newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Nick Hockley has revealed the group of almost 40 players and others who completed quarantine today in Sydney were "quite clearly shaken" by having to hastily leave India and then face uncertainty over their repatriation home.
The cohort – which included cricketers, coaches, commentators, match officials and medical staff – were flown to Sri Lanka and the Maldives early this month when the Indian Premier League was postponed due to the escalating COVID-19 crisis in India.
With a temporary ban placed on all arrivals from India by the Australia Government until May 15, the group was forced to wait 10 days until the ban was lifted and their charter flight (paid for by the Board of Control for Cricket in India) arrived in Sydney where they undertook a further 14 days of hotel quarantine.
That period of isolation elapsed this morning, and they headed home to reunite with family and friends before players will reconvene in a couple of weeks to prepare for the men's team's next playing assignment, an eight-match limited-overs Qantas Tour of the West Indies from July 10.
Hockley, who was today confirmed as CA's new CEO having served in an interim capacity since taking over from Kevin Roberts last June, said he had been in contact with players and other members of the IPL group who were relieved to be back in Australia and heading home.
"We've been texting, and I've spoken to a couple of the broader group, not just the players but there's commentators, match officials and physios," Hockley said.
"They are clearly quite shaken from the experience, very appreciative to be home back here in Australia.
"I would reiterate that the BCCI have been absolutely fantastic in supporting the playing group, and the entire group in terms of getting home safely and we're very grateful for that.
"It's a couple of weeks before the West Indies touring party regroups at the National Cricket Centre and I think that's a time to re-focus.
"But I know for now they're looking forward to spending some time over the next couple of weeks with family and friends."
Australia's selectors named a preliminary squad of 23 for the West Indies tour, but that is expected to be trimmed in coming weeks with vice-captain Pat Cummins and opener David Warner reportedly expressing a wish to remain in Australia with their families rather than travel to the Caribbean.
Members of the final touring party will convene at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane next month to being preparation for the tour which is an important element of Australia's build-up to the ICC T20 World Cup that was scheduled for India later this year but might yet be relocated to the UAE.
Hockley said players heading to the Caribbean, where they will play five T20 Internationals in St Lucia before flying to Barbados for three ODIs finishing July 25, will be able to receive vaccinations prior to departure in line with new Federal Government COVID-19 protocols.
"We really welcome the government announcements that people granted exemptions to leave Australia for work purposes will be eligible for the vaccine," Hockley said.
"So now, once the players are out of quarantine, we will be working to offer them vaccinations before heading off to the West Indies."
Hockley also said it was too early for CA to comment on whether players would be available to take part in the IPL when it resumes, with the BCCI announcing last week the suspended competition will be completed in the UAE "in the months of September-October this year".
The England and Wales Cricket Board has already ruled their players will be unavailable to return for the second phase of the IPL given the full home summer program in the UK and the proximity to the T20 World Cup which is scheduled to be held in October-November.
While the scheduling logjam between the IPL's resumption and the ICC tournament might be potentially eased if both were staged in the UAE, CA will need to issue new No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to contracted players who wish to participate in the IPL.
Hockley said that issue would be addressed after the players who had recently returned from India had a chance to spend time at home, given some have been separated from their families since departing for the IPL in early April.
"Our players from the IPL only today came out of quarantine, so our first priority is to make sure they are reunited with their families and that they're safe and well," Hockley said.
"We've obviously got a tour to prepare for in the West Indies but once they're out of quarantine and we get back together as a group, that (future IPL involvement) is something we'll need to discuss."
However, he said there would be no discussion on the likelihood of Australia stepping in to host the 2021 T20 World Cup despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in India.
Australia and India were originally scheduled to host the 2020 and 2021 men's T20 World Cups respectively, but when the global pandemic forced the postponement of last year's event the ICC chose to reverse that order with Australia to stage the tournament in 2022.
The recent spike in COVID-19 cases across India has cast doubt on the feasibility of holding a major multi-team event there, with the BCCI indicating they will undertake further discussions with the ICC before deciding on the location of this year's T20 World Cup.
"No, we've got the men's T20 World cup next year, that's the postponed 2020 event," Hockley said today when asked if there was any likelihood Australia might step in to host this year's event.
"We're very focused on preparing for that event, but in terms of us hosting (the 2021 T20 World Cup) that hasn't been discussed and is not on the cards."