A host of Australian cricketers, coaches and commentators stranded in coronavirus-ravaged India will now weigh up their options following the suspension of the Indian Premier League – with some eyeing up a paradise island loophole.
The lucrative IPL tournament featuring the some of world’s biggest stars was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday after multiple players tested positive to coronavirus in recent days.
A 34-strong Australian cricket contingent remains in India including 14 players, 11 coaches, four commentators, two umpires and five support staff, as well as a commentator from New Zealand who lives in Australia.
David Warner, Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis and coach Ricky Ponting are among 9,000 Australians unable to return home until at least May 15 due to a travel ban enforced by the federal government – and this could even be extended.
Former Australian opener Michael Slater, who was working as a commentator, managed to escape to the Maldives and now must just wait the designated two weeks to return to Australia.
Pat Cummins (pictured with partner Becky) is in lockdown in India after several IPL teammates tested positive to coronavirus – but admitted players ‘knew what they signed up for’
Australian cricketers looking to flee escape India following the suspension of IPL could flee to the Maldives (pictured) like Michael Slater
A mass exodus of Australians currently unable to return home may now follow Slater to the tropical island paradise, which is a three-and-half hour flight away as the coronavirus crisis in India worsens.
There were about 450 new cases in the Maldives this each day this week, which is dwarfed by the 400,000 infections seen daily in India.
Upon arriving in the Maldives, travellers need only present a negative Covid-19 test from the last 96 hours.
Then they must wait the government-mandated two weeks before flying back to Australia, where they then enter another fortnight of mandatory hotel quarantine.
Cases have soared past 20 million in India since the pandemic began and deaths have surpassed 220,000, with the nation’s health system on the brink of collapse.
Cummins is currently in isolation with the rest of the Kolkata Knight Riders team after two of their teammates tested positive to Covid-19.
Commentator and cricket great Michael Slater (pictured) is currently in the Maldives after fleeing India in recent days
HOW THE MALDIVES LOOPHOLE WORKS
Any visitor can travel to the Maldives, as long as they have proof of a negative Covid test in the 96 hours prior.
From April 27, those coming from India cannot stay at tourist facilities in heavily populated areas – but can stay in private residences.
They are also allowed to stay in resorts and hotels in secluded areas of the islands.
Before returning to Australia, travellers must show they have not been in India in the past 14 days.
Then on arrival, they must still enter hotel quarantine for a fortnight in Australia, as with any overseas arrivals.
Source: Visit Maldives
The Knight Riders played the Dehli Capitals on April 29 forcing former Australian captain Smith, as well as all-rounder Stoinis and Capitals coaches Ponting and James Hopes, into isolation.
Warner and his Sunrisers Hyderabad teammates have also been plunged into a four-day lockdown after one of their players, Wriddhiman Saha, returned a positive COVID-19 test on Tuesday.
Speaking for the first time from his quarantine hotel room, Cummins said he had been surprised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments that those who returned from India faced jail time, but admitted players ‘knew what they were signing up for’.
‘Once we flew out of Australia we knew we were signing up for 14 days quarantine coming home, so you always feel that little bit further away from getting home,’ he told The Back Page on Tuesday night.
‘As soon as the hard border shut, obviously no-one has experienced that before. It added a bit of anxiety for a few of the Aussies over here.
‘But we signed up to play the tournament until the start of June. Hopefully it all reopens on May 15 and we’ll be able to get back.’
With the IPL suspended indefinitely, officials are working with foreign players’ government to get them repatriated safely.
Around 9,000 Australians remain stranded in India, where the coronavirus crisis is worsening with around 400,000 new cases a day and hospitals at breaking point
Speaking from his quarantine hotel room on Tuesday night, Pat Cummins (pictured) admitted he’d been surprised by the Prime Minister’s comments that Aussies returning from India could face jail time
But with Australia having banned all flights from India, it is not clear what the players’ next step is.
Meanwhile Slater has come under fire after he slammed the federal government from new current island base on Monday night – a move others could soon follow.
‘If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home,’ Slater wrote on Twitter.
‘It’s a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this?
‘How about you sort out quarantine system? I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.’
Slater doubled down on his tirade in a follow-up tweet after he was inundated with backlash.
‘For those who think this is a money exercise. Well forget it,’ he wrote.
‘This is what I do for a living and I have not made a penny having left early. So please stop the abuse and think of the thousands dying in India each day. It’s called empathy. If only our government had some.’
Slater has been roasted by many Australians who believe he and others who chose to travel to India did so on their own accord and should face the consequences.
‘So Michael Slater goes into a war zone to chase money. Now when it has gotten out of control, it’s the Australian Government’s fault?’ one Twitter user wrote.
‘Michael Slater can FO attacking the PM when HE went to India to make big cash but now it doesn’t suit him,’ said another.
‘This Michael Slater rant is really something else. He can’t honestly think he went to India knowing what could happen if it went pear shaped?’ wrote a third.
David Warner (pictured with his wife Candice) his Sunrisers Hyderabad teammates have also been plunged into a four day lockdown after one of their players, Wriddhiman Saha, returned a positive COVID-19 test on Tuesday
Cricket star Warner shared a heartbroken note from his daughter Ivy while he is stranded in India – but could soon make a break for the Maldives
Australian cricket officials were in late night crisis talks on Tuesday following the suspension of the IPL.
‘Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association understand the decision of the BCCI to indefinitely postpone the 2021 Indian Premier League for the safety and wellbeing of all participants,’ a joint statement from CA and ACA read.
It explained that officials were working to ‘ensure the safe accommodation and repatriation of Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators back home to Australia.’
But the statement also said that association ‘respected the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15′ and confirmed it wouldn’t be seeking exemptions for Australian stars.
Michael Slater is already in the island paradise of the Maldives (stock image) – and other Australian players could follow suit
Australians stranded in India
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
**Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson (Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Andrew Tye (Rajasthan Royals) left the IPL early and beat the Morrison-government’s travel ban.