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IPL cancellation fallout: T20 World Cup set for UAE shift with third COVID-19 wave expected in November

The foreigners involved in the lucrative league are concerned about returning to their respective countries due to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of a deadly resurgence of the pandemic.

Published: 04th May 2021 04:44 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th May 2021 05:35 PM   |  A+A-

A view of the ground before the start of the first match IPL 2020 between Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings at Sheikh Zayed Stadium Abu Dhabi UAE Saturday Sept. 19 2020. (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: IPL chairman Brijesh Patel on Tuesday said the BCCI will "find a way" to arrange for the return of foreign players after the league was suspended indefinitely due to a COVID-19 outbreak in its bio-bubble.

The suspension of the league was announced after Sunrisers Hyderabad's wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha tested positive for COVID-19 along with Delhi Capitals' veteran spinner Amit Mishra.

"We need to send them home and we will find a way to do that," Brijesh told PTI when asked how will the foreigners return home but did not elaborate beyond that.

The suspension of the tournament was announced after SunRisers Hyderabad's wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha tested positive for COVID-19 along with Delhi Capitals' veteran spinner Amit Mishra.

"We need to send them home and we will find a way to do that," Brijesh told PTI when asked how will the foreigners return home but did not elaborate beyond that.

The foreigners involved in the lucrative league are concerned about returning to their respective countries due to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of a deadly resurgence of the pandemic in India.

The BCCI had assured foreign players of a safe return earlier as well.

The IPL had 14 Australian players left, after three pullouts a few days ago, along with 10 from New Zealand and 11 Englishmen.

South Africa had 11 players in the league, which also featured nine West Indians, three Afghans and two from Bangladesh.

In a joint statement, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association said they respect their government's decision to suspend flights operating out of India due to the COVID surge here and will not seek exemptions for its players stuck in the country ravaged by a deadly second wave of the pandemic.

"CA is in direct contact with the BCCI as they work through plans to ensure the safe accommodation and repatriation of Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators back home to Australia."

"CA and the ACA respect the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15 and will not seek exemptions."

They further stated, "CA and the ACA thank the BCCI for their efforts and cooperation for the safe repatriation of all participants at the IPL."

Reacting to the big BCCI move, Cricket South Africa (CSA) said it is in contact with its players who will need to home quarantine on arrival from India as per the World Health Organization recommendations.

"Those travelling back to South Africa will undergo home quarantine in line with the current World Health Organization recommendations," it said in a release.

"CSA and the South African Cricketers Association (SACA) are in contact with all players and are assured of their safety and comfort in their respective locations."

CSA said it supported the BCCI decision of suspend the league keeping in mind the current situation and thanked the Indian board for looking after its players.

"CSA supports the decision to put the health and safety interests of all involved in the tournament first and foremost and has made contact with all of the relevant franchises to ensure the expedited travel of all South African players and support staff back to our shores."

New Zealand Cricket expressed faith in BCCI's ability to handle the situation.

"The players are in a relatively safe environment and those within affected teams are in isolation," read an NZC statement posted by 'ESPNcricinfo'.

"We'll continue to liaise with the BCCI, the ECB and New Zealand government authorities in terms of managing their situation - but at this juncture it's too early to discuss potential options."

India and New Zealand players were supposed to travel together in a charter flight to the UK where they will clash in the World Test Championship final in June.

Of all the foreign recruits, the Australians have been the most vocal about their anxieties.

On Monday, cricketer-turned-commentator Michael Slater, who was doing commentary in the IPL, escaped to Maldives and launched a scathing attack on his country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not allowing its citizens to return from India, calling the travel ban, till May 15, a "disgrace".

Australia has shut its borders and not allowing any commercial flights from India because of the massive COVID-19 surge here which has led to all the players, support staff and commentators, who might have wanted to leave the IPL midway in a fix.

"If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. 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 tweeted.

A coupe of days back, Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell said that the cricketers from his country wouldn't mind travelling in the same chartered flight that would take India, New Zealand, and England players to the UK after the IPL.

India and New Zealand are set to play the final of the World Test Championship from June 18 and will fly to England after the completion of IPL.

On Monday, Chennai Super Kings bowling coach L Balaji along with Kolkata Knight Riders bowlers Sandeep Warrier and Varun Chakravarthy had also returned positive results.

Meanwhile, this year's T20 World Cup is set to be moved from India to the UAE with the BCCI acknowledging that none of the participating teams would be "comfortable" coming here because "a third wave" of COVID-19 cases is expected at the time of the event.

While a final decision will be taken in a month's time but it is understood that even the Indian cricket board is jittery about holding the 16-team tournament in October-November after the ongoing IPL had to be suspended because of multiple COVID-19 cases inside the bio-bubble.

PTI has learnt BCCI officials have had very recent discussions with some of the top decision-makers in the central government and a shift to the UAE has been more or less agreed upon.

The dates of the marquee competition, which was planned across nine venues, have not yet been finalised.

"The suspension of IPL within four weeks is an indicator that it's not really safe to host a global event of that magnitude at a time when the country is fighting its worst health crisis in last 70 years," a senior BCCI source privy to development said on conditions of anonymity.

"There is a chance of a third wave hitting the Indian shores in November. So while BCCI will remain the hosts, the tournament will probably shift to the UAE," he added.

Health experts have warned of a third wave in India in September, a view that has been shared by Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope.

The dire situation in India, where a daily addition of over 3 lakh new cases has continued for the past many days, has shaken most of the member boards and the ICC is unlikely to take a risk with safety of international cricket teams.

"You can be rest assured that most of the top nations wouldn't like to tour India within next six months unless the situation comes to normalcy. The players and their families would be very wary to travel if they are in the middle of another surge.

"So expect BCCI to agree with shift of tournament to UAE," another source also chipped in.

He said IPL's suspension after a string of positive cases has made the officialdom very jittery of taking any more risks.

"The IPL in India was a platform to prove to the world as well as participating nations that it is safe to host a tournament even when the second wave is hitting its peak.

"It was going well but the bio bubble has now become porous. What's the guarantee it won't happen again in October-November. Nations like Australia, England and New Zealand are almost certain to have travel advisories in place," he argued.

One of the biggest reasons for conducting the tournament in the UAE is that it can be kept to three grounds -- Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi -- and there is no air travel.

"Look six venues for IPL was always a dangerous proposition when they successfully managed with three during the last edition," the source said.

"In UAE, all of them were in one bubble from start to finish while here each team was travelling to three bubbles. Most of the positive cases emerged after bubble travel."

"Therefore even if you reduce the number of venues from 9 to 5 in October, still there will be air travel unlike UAE. Also for players, they would not be mentally in a space to play in India unless the situation drastically improves," he added.

There is an ICC meeting in June where a final decision will be taken but retaining the tournament in India after cancellation of IPL seems far-fetched at this point.



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