NEW DELHI: India’s cricket board, the BCCI, on Tuesday told players it will ensure their safe return home once the ongoing Twenty20 tournament is completed, in a charm offensive as the Covid-19 pandemic grips the country, local media reported.
Australia’s Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye have cut short their IPL season and gone home, while India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has pulled out as the south Asian nation grapples with skyrocketing case numbers.
In a letter to players, BCCI interim CEO Hemang Amin assured players full support during and after the tournament, which is being played under biosecurity protocols and ends at the end of May.
“The BCCI will do everything to ensure that you reach your respective destinations seamlessly,” Amin wrote, according to local media reports. “Rest assured that the tournament isn’t over for BCCI till each one of you has reached your home, safe and sound.”
Vital medical supplies poured into India on Tuesday with the country’s new caseload running at well over 300,000 a day and with 2,771 deaths in the last 24 hours taking the country’s toll so far to 197,894.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said his country will not prioritise IPL players for repatriation.
“They [cricketers] have travelled there privately under those arrangements, this wasn’t part of an Australian tour,” Morrison said. “They are under their own resources and they’ll be using those resources, I’m sure, to seek to return to Australia in accordance with our own arrangements.”
Amin said the cricketers were playing for more than just the a trophy.
“As some of you have said, ‘If we can help distract people from all the troubles of recent times, even if it is for a short while, we have done a great job’,” he wrote. “If, even for a minute, you can bring a smile on someone’s face, then you have done well. While you are professionals and will play to win, this time you are also playing for something much more important… humanity.”
Meanwhile, ex-Australia Batsman Chris Lynn has requested a charter flight home for Australian players, News Corp reported on Tuesday.
Lynn said he asked Cricket Australia for a charter flight when the governing body contacted players about their health and travel plans.
“I texted back that as Cricket Australia make 10 percent of every IPL contract was there a chance we could spend that money this year on a charter flight once the tournament is over?” Lynn, who plays for Mumbai Indians, told News Corp.
Lynn was speaking before Australia suspended flights from India until at least May 15 on Tuesday.
Highlighting the conditions in India, Australia’s David Warner posted a picture on Instagram of himself and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson in blue protective suits and masks on a flight to Delhi.
“I know there are people worse off than us… We are not asking for short cuts and we signed up knowing the risks,” Lynn said. “But it would be great to get home as soon as the event is over.”
England batsman Liam Livingstone left the Royals last week, just before Britain imposed a travel clampdown on India. A handful of players tested positive before the tournament began.
The IPL has come in for media criticism, with a leading Indian newspaper group calling it ‘commercialism gone crass’ and ‘incongruous’ as it suspended coverage on Sunday.—Agencies
BCCI officials were not immediately available to comment.
The IPL regular season ends on May 23, followed by playoffs and a final on May 30. (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson).