Australia’s IPL players and coaches could be home as early as Sunday, with plans for them to fly into a specially arranged hotel quarantine in Sydney.
A large group of players, coaches and even commentators left India last week and have been holed-up in a small resort in the Maldives awaiting the government’s India travel ban to lift.
The controversial ban, with threats of large fines and jail sentences, ends on Saturday and there are hopes the group can board a plane on Sunday to return.
The 8000 or more Australian citizens trapped in India are also free to return with the government signalling there will be a small number of repatriation flights this month.
Seats on planes have proved rare and costly since the pandemic started.
The situation has caused grief for separated families, many who have lost loved ones to the virus.
The cricketers will first have to catch a boat to the Maldives capital, Male, where a flight is expected to make its way to Australia via Kuala Lumpur.
Cricket authorities are believed to have negotiated an arrangement with the NSW government that would see the group quarantined over and above caps on citizens returning.
There were initial thoughts the players would go to a federal facility at Howard Springs, but they may now be spread across three hotels in Sydney’s CBD.
The BCCI guaranteed it would get all foreign players home when the IPL was postponed and the organisation is expected to pay for the flight back.
The move is sure to be controversial with many asking why cricketers get what appears to be special treatment.
Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association have made it clear that they are not asking for any favours from the government, which gave players permission to leave the country.
“We’re not seeking any kind of special exemptions whatsoever,” interim CA boss Nick Hockley said.
“Any kind of quarantine arrangements would be over and above the cap. So our priority is we would work with the Australian government and the relevant state governments to make sure that we’re not taking spaces off anyone else.”
“I can’t speak more highly for how the BCCI, but also all of the franchise, s have worked to look after our players and put in plans to make sure that they get home safely and as quickly as possible.”
The IPL was postponed after players and officials, including Australia’s Mike Hussey, were diagnosed with COVID-19.
Some players left early, uncomfortable with playing in such an environment and anxious about their own safety.
Pat Cummins announced a $50,000 donation to Unicef to help India battle the pandemic, which was later matched by Cricket Australia.
Cummins, Brett Lee, Ellyse Perry, Michael Hussey, Rachael Haynes, Steve Smith and Alan Border have released a video calling on the cricket community to back the cause.
Unicef is raising funds to purchase oxygen generation plants with reports of people dying in hospitals and on the street because they are unable to source oxygen.
India has more than 23 million COVID-19 cases and while official figures have the death toll at 240,000 there are reports it could be much higher.
“We know this pandemic has the most devastating impacts on the most vulnerable and we are so proud of our cricketers, past and present, who have so kindly given their time to be part of this video,” UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart said.
Originally published as Revealed: How IPL players plan to be home by Sunday