Australia's IPL group to evacuate India

Australia's contingent of IPL cricketers will be evacuated from India to other nations while awaiting the lifting of a travel ban to return home.

NRL CEO TODD GREENBERG.
NRL CEO TODD GREENBERG. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Australia's IPL contingent will be evacuated en masse from India to other nations within 72 hours while anxiously hoping for the lifting of a travel ban to return home.

But batting great Michael Hussey, the only one of 38 Australians at the now-suspended IPL to test positive to the coronavirus, will be forced to remain in India.

The rest of the Australian group - including 24 players and coaches, with other support staffers and commentators - will flee India within three days for either the Maldives or Sri Lanka.

They cannot come home until at least May 15 because the Morrison government has banned any Australian in India from returning until after that date.

Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive Todd Greenberg said the travel ban, announced suddenly by the government last Friday night, was worrying the cricket contingent.

"They signed up (for the IPL) with their eyes wide open about some of the challenges and risks," Greenberg told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

"They always knew when they came back they would have to do isolation for 14 days.

"What they didn't expect was for the borders to be closed.

"That created some anxiety for them, just like it would create anxiety for the 9000 Australians who are over there looking to come home."

Hussey must remain isolating at an Indian hotel for at least the next 10 days after returning positive COVID-19 tests on the past two days.

"His symptoms are relatively mild, so he is okay," Greenberg said.

"He is in for a stint of isolation in his hotel room for at least 10 days but he's in pretty good spirits."

The other Australians must return multiple negative tests in the next 48 hours before leaving on flights organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The BCCI would then fly the Australians home on a charter flight after May 15, if the government lifted the ban by then.

"There has been a lot of uncertainty and a pretty stressful time for them," Cricket Australia's interim chief executive Nick Hockley told reporters.

"The absolute priority is to get them home safe and well."

Hockley said the Australian cricket group was "not seeking any kind of special exemptions whatsoever".

He expected them to be exempt from the government's cap on numbers of returning international travellers.

"We will work the Australian government and the relevant state governments to make sure we're not taking spaces of anyone else ... certainly that is what we're committed to doing," Hockley said.

Hockley's words were in stark contrast to former Australian Test star Michael Slater, who had already said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had 'blood on his hands' over the handling of the crisis.

On Wednesday he took to Twitter again, saying: "Amazing to smoke out the PM on a matter that is a human crisis. The panic, the fear of every Australian in India is real!! How about you take your private jet and come and witness dead bodies on the street!"

The lucrative IPL Twenty20 tournament was suspended after four franchises reported positive COVID-19 tests to players or staffers.

Australia bowlers Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson last week fled the IPL, returning home via Qatar.

But any Australian attempting that journey now risked jail time and fines amid the travel ban, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the possibility of such sanctions was remote.

The IPL was halted as Indian society buckles with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases and more than 220,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

"Our hearts go out to everyone in India," Hockley said.

"Clearly the IPL, they put so much work, so much effort into putting on the tournament and they obviously did that on the best available information at the time.

"I can't speak more highly for how the BCCI but also how of the franchises have worked to look after our players and put in plans to make sure they get home safely and as quickly as possible."