No plans made for CA charter flight for IPL players: Hockley
Cricket Australia chief says while he is concerned for safety of Australians in the IPL, it is premature to be speculating on the logistics of repatriation
3 May 2021, 02:26 PM AEST
Cricket Australia has no immediate plans to provide a charter flight to return players currently engaged in the Indian Premier League and claims it's premature to speculate about repatriation plans with the tournament scheduled to run for a further four weeks.
As India's COVID-19 case numbers continue to soar, the Australian Government announced a pause on all incoming flights from India until May 15 and subsequently warned that Australian citizens who returned home during that period after being in India could face up to five years' jail.
While the Australian players remaining at the IPL have not indicated intentions to return prior to the tournament's completion, Brisbane Heat captain Chris Lynn last week floated the prospect of CA funding a charter flight to repatriate their contracted players when the competition finishes.
However, CA's interim Chief Executive Officer Nick Hockley said today there was currently "no suggestion" of a charter flight.
Hockley added that while CA remained in regular contact with the players in India and remained "very concerned" about their wellbeing and safe return home, it was premature to be speculating on the logistics of repatriation.
"There's no suggestion at the moment of any charter flight," Hockley told Melbourne radio station SEN on Monday morning, before news emerged of two positive tests in the IPL bubble.
"We're working closely and talking closely with the ACA (Australian Cricketers' Association), with the players and with the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) to make sure everyone's okay and the people have got full information.
"We've been in touch with the players there and they are generally in good spirits.
"The work the BCCI has done around the (bio-secure) bubble means they are feeling safe and secure, and those we've talked to are generally planning to complete their playing commitments.
"The BCCI have come out and said they understand and want to support the players in making sure they get home safely at the end.
"The tournament doesn't finish until the 30th of May, so for the moment it's monitor the situation and as we get closer to the end of the tournament we'll need to see where the situation is at."
Hockley said it was also too early to speculate on the possible contingency plans should the pause on flights from India extend beyond May 15, but noted that players leaving India for another jurisdiction and spending quarantine time there before returning home had been mooted.
As has historically been the case, the IPL is conducted during a period of CA-contracted players' annual leave which means the cricketers have effectively travelled to India under their own volition to take part in the two-month tournament.
But while Hockley pointed out that ensures no direct parallel to Australia's planned Test tour to South Africa earlier this year which was postponed due to CA's concerns surrounding COVID-19 protocols, the players' welfare remains paramount.
"The tour of South Africa is a different set of circumstances," he said.
"That is representing the national team and we at Cricket Australia have a direct duty of care around that tour.
"The players have made their own decision to go and compete in the IPL on their own time, so technically they are there under their own auspices.
"But of course, we're very concerned for their safety, we're very concerned for their wellbeing and we are concerned to make sure at the end of the tournament that everyone gets home safely.
"That's the reason why we're in such regular contact with the players, with the ACA and the BCCI."
Hockley reiterated the two Australian players who returned from India via Doha last week – Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa – before the Federal Government tightened entry restrictions had made their own private travel arrangements without CA's intervention.
"Any suggestion there was any kind of special privileges, treatment of facilitation is not correct," Hockley said.
"They booked commercial flights to return home and that was all off their own bat."
Hockley, who today announced CA would make an initial donation of $50,000 to UNICEF's COVID-19 crisis appeal that provides oxygen to India's seriously ill patients, also shared his view on whether or not the IPL should continue against the backdrop of such a growing humanitarian crisis.
"We've seen all around the world, and certainly seen here in Australia when people were under lockdown that getting sport on really did boost morale," he said.
"I understand that people have got various opinions about whether it's appropriate to continue or not, but I'm led to believe that continuation of the IPL isn't detracting any resources away from the relief efforts (in India).
"And I have to commend the BCCI and the IPL for their efforts around bio-security in keeping the players safe.
"So my personal opinion is that having sport on is a boost to morale at what is obviously a very sad and distressing time and situation in India."