IPL Fact Check: Will Worried Aussie Players Return Home Amid COVID Crisis?
Mumbai: That the IPL is continuing even as India reels under a major COVID-19 crisis is in itself a miracle of sorts.
Though matches are being played in empty stadiums, as many as six venues are taking turns to host the eight teams. A bio-secure bubble is being maintained for the security of players, team staff, officials and commentators, but it is not as foolproof as last year because the teams have to fly out from one city to another multiple times.
Even if charter flights are used, there is some additional risk compared to what was in practice during the 2020 edition held in the UAE, where the distances travelled were much less between three cities of Dubai, Sharjah and the UAE.
This time, the tournament is being held across the length and breadth of India – Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Though the players have not expressed their concern openly yet, there is mounting worry and fear among many of them considering the spiralling daily caseload in India.
The Australian cricketers, in particular, are quite sceptical.
Former Australian batsman and Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach David Hussey has gone on record as saying that many are nervous about the situation, seeing the alarming numbers.
“Everyone’s sort of a bit nervous about whether they can get back into Australia. I dare say there’ll be a few other Australians a bit nervous about getting back into Australia,” Hussey told Australia’s The Age.
“It’s on the news every minute of the day. You see people in hospital beds. It puts a lot of things in perspective. We actually discussed after the game last night, how lucky we are to play the game and try to entertain people around the world. Everyone’s pretty nervous about what’s going on over here, but they’re also pragmatic,” Hussey said.
There are 17 Australian cricketers in different teams of IPL 2021, including big names like Pat Cummins, David Warner, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell. Not to mention coaches and support staff like Ricky Ponting and David Hussey.
The number would have been more had Rajasthan Royals’ Andrew Tye not left for home already citing personal reasons and if Billy Stanlake hadn’t refused a contract with Chennai Super Kings as Josh Hazlewood’s replacement, reportedly because of the situation in India.
What is worrying the Australians even more is the possibility of their government banning passengers from India to their country. The COVID situation has improved significantly in Australia, but it is wary of the double mutant strain that’s considered to have mainly caused the serious second wave in India.
The Age reported that negotiations have begun on how to ferry the Australian cricketers and support staff back home after the tournament.
“From a KKR point of view, we’re desperate for the tournament to keep going, purely because everyone’s in lockdown, there’s not much else to do,” Hussey said.
Delhi Capitals coach Ponting tried to be positive.
“We right now are probably the safest people in the country being in the bubbles that we are in. Continually I’m asking the boys at breakfast every day how’s everything going on the outside… We’ve got to be talking about what’s happening outside because it is quite grim,” Ponting said.
A decision to abandon the tournament and fly home may not happen in a hurry. But nothing can be ruled out if the situation in India doesn’t improve in a week or two.