A day after IPL 2021 had to be postponed because of the Covid-19 situation, all eight franchises started to disband, with their players and support staff trying to find a way back home quickly.
Most of the players from England have reached the UK. Most of the Australians, the biggest overseas contingent in the IPL with close to 40 members, are headed to the Maldives.* The New Zealanders have split into two groups, one heading home and the other to England.
What is unclear is the protocol around people from franchises that have recorded positive Covid-19 cases to fly out when, in theory, they could have come in contact with the people who have tested positive.
All the affected teams – based in Ahmedabad and Delhi – went into weeklong isolation following the positive tests. Once the tournament was officially postponed, however, the franchises started to disengage from their bubbles while moving the affected individuals into isolation zones (hotel room/medical facilities). It is understood that franchises got the IPL’s nod for allowing players to leave the bubble once their tests had come out negative.
Below is a look at the status of some of the overseas contingents, and their travel plan.
Cricket Australia has been working with the BCCI to have the Australians who are still at the IPL – including players, coaches and commentators – flown to an interim destination. On May 6 it was confirmed that the Maldives was settled on. In Australia’s case, the main issue is that the country has closed its borders for those travelling in from India. Currently, the border closure to those who have been to India runs until May 15, and once they are allowed back, they will need to go through 14-days quarantine.
No fast-track return for Australian contingent at IPL – CA CEO Nick Hockley
On May 6, a statement from CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association said: “The Australians will remain in the Maldives until the conclusion of the travel pause pertaining to flights from India to Australia…
“Mike Hussey remains in India having tested positive to Covid-19. Mike is experiencing mild symptoms and is in the care of his IPL franchise, the Chennai Super Kings. CA and the ACA will work closely with the BCCI to ensure Mike’s safe return to Australia when it is safe to do so.”
The BCCI had earlier said it will arrange the flights to Maldives, and then the charter back to Australia.
“I was on the phone to my counterpart less than an hour ago and I can’t speak more highly for how the BCCI but also all of the franchises have worked to look after our players and put in plans to make sure that they get home safely and as quickly as possible,” Nick Hockley, the CA interim chief executive, said in the aftermath of the postponement.
He stressed that Cricket Australia would not be looking for favours, keeping in mind the circumstances. “We’re not seeking any kind of special exemptions whatsoever,” he 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 of anyone else.”
Eight of the 11 England players who were at the IPL – Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy and Sam Billings – landed at London’s Heathrow Airport early on May 5 morning. As per the UK government’s policy, these players will serve a ten-day quarantine at government-approved hotels.
According to the ECB, the trio of Eoin Morgan, Chris Jordan and Dawid Malan were expected to leave India within the next 48 hours.
The visitors from New Zealand – 17 members including players and coaches – were split into two groups. One of these would go to the UK to participate in the England Test series followed by the World Test Championship final against India, both scheduled for June, along with a few who are participating in the T20 Blast. The other group would leave for New Zealand.
On Thursday, NZC confirmed the England-bound group would leave India on May 11* when the UK will revise the travel restrictions for incoming travellers from India. “Due to the UK border restrictions, that group cannot get into England until May 11. It is obviously challenging for them to wait for another few days,” Heath Mills, the head of the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association, previously told ESPNcricinfo.
Trent Boult will not be part of the group heading to England, instead returning home for a short spell before joining the Test squad in June. Trainer Chris Donaldson, who has been with the Kolkata Knight Riders, will also return briefly to New Zealand.
The UK-bound group includes Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner and Tommy Simsek (physio). After some initial thought that those with T20 Blast deals – Lockie Ferguson, Jimmy Neesham and Finn Allen – would join them they will now return to New Zealand.
The others returning home are Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum, Kyle Mills, Shane Bond, Mike Hesson, Tim Seifert, Adam Milne, Scott Kuggeleijn and James Pamment.
Those heading to New Zealand are due to depart New Delhi on one of two chartered flights, arriving in Auckland before undergoing managed isolation. Mills had flagged the challenge of using commercial routes and suggested the possibility of charters.
“The group going home to New Zealand is a real challenge. Might be one or two of the franchises might put them on a charter plane, which will be fantastic,” he said. On May 6, the Royal Challengers Bangalore said in a statement: “The New Zealand players and staff are on a special charter to Auckland and will be in touch with New Zealand Cricket on SOPs [on arrival].”*
Kolkata Knight Riders’ Shakib Al Hasan and Rajasthan Royals’ Mustafizur Rahman were set to arrive in Dhaka on the evening of May 6.* It is understood that both were put on a chartered flight arranged by their respective franchises. As per Bangladesh’s rules, they are supposed to be in institutional quarantine for 14 days, although the final decision on this will be taken upon their arrival.
Out of the 13 South African players and support staff in the IPL, most are already home with the remaining expected to reach on May 7. The Super Kings franchise confirmed that Faf du Plessis, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir and bowling coach Eric Simmons left for South Africa on a commercial flight on May 4 evening. Greg King, the Super Kings’ trainer, was scheduled to fly out from Delhi on May 5 evening.
Also flying back to South Africa on May 4 were the Rajasthan Royals pair of Chris Morris and Gerald Coetzee. The Royals said that their third South African player, David Miller, would leave on May 5 evening. The Delhi Capitals pair of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada were scheduled to reach home by May 7, too. The Royal Challengers Bangalore have confirmed that their only South Africa player, AB de Villiers, will fly back home via Mumbai on May 5 night. As for the Mumbai Indians pair of Quinton de Kock and Marco Jansen, their travel plans were unclear.
It is understood that a few of the West Indies players including the Kolkata Knight Riders’ pair of Andre Russell and Sunil Narine were scheduled to fly on a chartered flight from Delhi to the Caribbean on May 6 evening. The other West Indies players in the IPL were Mumbai’s pair of Kieron Pollard and Fidel Edwards, who was hired as a reserve bowler, along with the Super Kings’ allrounder Dwayne Bravo and the Capitals’ Shimron Hetmyer.
“We are in contact with the BCCI and all of our IPL players as well as their agents and franchises to assist where we can in ensuring that they can get home as quickly and safely as possible,” Johnny Grave, Cricket West Indies’ chief executive officer, said.
May 6: This story was updated with the latest information on Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
Additional reporting by Andrew McGlashan and Andrew Miller
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo