IPL postponed amid widening COVID-19 outbreak
Twenty20 tournament suspended after a third franchise reported a positive COVID-19 case
4 May 2021, 06:18 PM AEST
The Board for Control of Cricket in India has suspended the Indian Premier League amid a widening COVID-19 outbreak, with the Australian contingent of players, coaches and broadcasters unable to come home.
A third franchise from the lucrative Twenty20 tournament has reported a positive COVID-19 test on Monday, prompting games to be called off for an indefinite period.
India is currently in the midst of a devastating second wave of the virus.
Steve Smith, fellow Australian allrounder Marcus Stoinis and their Australian-born coach at Delhi Capitals, Ricky Ponting, are in isolation with the rest of their squad.
Two players with rivals Kolkata Knight Riders – Pat Cummins' franchise – tested positive to COVID-19 and Delhi was the last team to play against that franchise, on April 29.
Australia's Delhi quartet join Kolkata compatriots Cummins, Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey in isolation.
"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," read a joint statement from Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association on Tuesday night.
"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."
The Knight Riders' Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier tested positive in Ahmedabad with reports suggesting they left the IPL's biosecurity bubble for medical treatment.
Three staff members of the Chennai Super Kings, who are in Delhi, have also tested positive with that franchise also in isolation.
The Super Kings' chief executive Kasi Viswanathan, bowling coach L Balaji and another staffer, believed to be a bus driver, tested positive on Sunday but returned negative reports on Monday, according to reports in India.
And a third franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad - which includes Australian David Warner - has also reported a positive coronavirus test, on wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
Warner is likely to also be forced into isolation.
IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said all games would be suspended as the number of cases grows within the tournament's bio-security bubble.
Australian cricketers Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson last week fled the IPL, returning home via Qatar.
But any Australian attempting that journey now risks jail time and fines amid the travel ban, though the prime minister said such sanctions were "extremely remote".
Complicating matters is Australia's limited-overs tour of the West Indies in June, with Smith, Cummins and other stars facing a tight turnaround if their homecoming was delayed.
"The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL," the Indian board said in a statement. "This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind.
"These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.
"The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021."
The outbreak has created political friction in Australia with Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed as "absurd" claims from Michael Slater that he has blood on his hands for banning Australian citizens from returning from India.
The IPL was due to finish on May 30.