IPL suspended as more Aussies in isolation

More Australian cricketers and coaches are in isolation as the IPL suspended competition after a fourth franchise reported a positive coronavirus test.

Prime Minister of Australia SCOTT MORRISON.
Prime Minister of Australia SCOTT MORRISON. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Star batsman Steve Smith and other Australian cricketers isolating in India are stranded after the IPL was suspended amid a widening coronavirus outbreak.

Indian cricket officials say they'll work to secure safe passage home for all IPL participants.

But Smith and about 40 Australians at the tournament must stay in India until at least May 15 because of a government ban on any Australians returning before that.

Cricket Australia and the players union, the Australian Cricketers' Association, say they won't seek exemptions from the government ban.

A fourth franchise from the lucrative Twenty20 tournament reporting a positive COVID-19 test prompted the competition to be called off indefinitely.

The captain of Smith's Delhi Capitals - coached by Australian great Ricky Ponting - has tested positive.

Delhi skipper Amit Mishra's positive test has forced Smith, his Australian teammate Marcus Stoinis and compatriots Ponting and bowling coach James Hopes into isolation.

Australians David Warner and Mitchell Marsh will also be isolated after the wicketkeeper at their franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, tested positive.

Fellow countrymen Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey, all at the Kolkata Knight Riders, had already been isolating after two players at their outfit tested positive.

And Australian fast bowler Jason Behrendorff is also caught up in the outbreak with three staffers at his Chennai Super Kings testing positive.

As Indian society buckles with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases and more than 220,000 deaths from the virus, the IPL halted competition.

"The tournament stands suspended," IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said.

"Right now, we can't say when we can reschedule it."

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) voted unanimously to suspend the tournament, which had been due to finish on May 30.

In a statement, the BCCI said it was "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," a BCCI statement said.

But Australia's cricketers and staffers will be forced to remain behind with Prime Minister Scott Morrison enforcing a ban on returning Australians, with India's coronavirus count averaging almost 400,000 new cases daily.

Morrison said on Tuesday the latest figures of coronavirus-positive cases in passengers coming out of India demanded the government pause flights.

Eight crossbenchers on Tuesday wrote to the prime minister asking him to revoke the pause and urgently repatriate Australians in India, starting with the most vulnerable, and set up a dedicated surge capacity quarantine facility in Australia.

The government's returning traveller ban was attacked by ex-Australian cricketer and now commentator Michael Slater, who had been in India commentating on the IPL.

Slater, who had travelled from India to the Maldives, accused the prime minister of having blood on his hands - a claim Morrison described as absurd.

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 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.