Cricketers return as other Aussies stranded
Australian cricketers who were competing in India have touched down in Sydney this morning to complete their two weeks of quarantine.
Players and coaches taking part in the Indian Premier League (IPL) fled to the Maldives when the lucrative T20 tournament was suspended because of the country's worsening COVID-19 crisis, and they were trapped in limbo until May 15.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced a travel ban for Australians to and from India as it experienced a horrifying surge in coronavirus cases that placed huge strain on its medical resources.
That ban has ended and Morrison insisted on Sunday no one would miss out because of the cricketers' repatriation when asked by a reporter about whether they had asked for "any special dispensation".
"They haven't been given any, I can tell you that," Morrison told media in Queensland. "They'll come in additional to the cap in New South Wales.
"The New South Wales government is happy for them to come in over the cap; that is something we insisted upon and they were happy to agree with that.
"But they will come back under their own steam, on their own ticket, and they won't be taking the spot in quarantine of any other Australian."
Cricket Australia and the NSW Government had come to an arrangement that will allow all players, staff and coaches to quarantine in Sydney hotels for the next 14 days.
The cricketers are home but not everyone has been so lucky. More than 40 tested positive to COVID-19 on the weekend which meant they, and their close contacts - so about 70 people all up - were barred from returning to Australia on a flight from New Delhi to Darwin.
The players get paid handsomely to play in the IPL and some were on contracts worth millions of dollars, including Glenn Maxwell ($2.52m), Riley Meredith ($1.42m) and Jhye Richardson ($2.48m).
The Aussie contingent managed to get out of India but because they couldn't go home straight away, headed for the Maldives to wait for the travel ban - which came with threats of fines and jail time - to end.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India promised it would get all overseas players home safely when the IPL was suspended, and the BCCI will reportedly pay the costs associated with flying the Australians home.
There are still approximately 8000 Australian citizens trapped in India, who are eligible to return home on repatriation flights now the May 15 deadline elapsed. However, whether they are able to come back as soon as our cricketers remains to be seen.
It will no doubt raise some awkward questions if they remain stuck overseas while batsmen and bowlers have arrived Down Under, given how rare and expensive seats on planes have proven to be during the pandemic.
At a press conference two weeks ago, interim CA boss Nick Hockley downplayed any suggestions the players and coaches would receive special treatment.
"We're not seeking any kinds of special exemptions whatsoever," he said. "Any kind of quarantine arrangements would be over and above the cap.
"So our main 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 that's available."
Former Australian Test star Mike Hussey was working as a batting coach for the Chennai Super Kings and became the first Australian in the IPL bubble to contract coronavirus.
Meanwhile, fast bowler Pat Cummins had earlier donated $50,000 to help India's "PM Cares Fund", specifically to purchase oxygen supplies for hospitals.
Originally published as Cricketers return as other Aussies stranded