Over 30 Australian cricket players, coaches and commentators remain in India after officials made it illegal for them to return home from the coronavirus-stricken Asian country in light of a controversial travel ban.
Aussie stars Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson managed to land in their homeland’s second-largest city Melbourne earlier this week after using a travel loophole via Doha which has now been closed.
The country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, commented that the route, plus others through Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore, have now been shut down to complete a total ban on all travel from India – which is currently reeling from a collapse of its public healthcare system to become one of the world’s most affected countries by Covid.
Going a step further to halt returns, the Australian government rolled out an emergency bill that sees anyone landing on their territory from the subcontinent nation – which recorded a record 400,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday – hit with a jail term of up to five years behind bars or fines able to reach US$51,000.
At present, 34 Australian cricket figures are “stranded” in India, according to the Daily Mail, where they are part of the hugely popular Premier League (IPL).
Among them are 12 players, including national team members Pat Cummins, David Warner and disgraced former captain Steve Smith, plus 11 coaches such as former legends Ricky Ponting, Simon Katich and David Hussey.
Two commentators are there as well, in addition to two umpires, five support staff, and a Kiwi commentator from New Zealand who resides in Australia.
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) April 26, 2021
Yet PM Morrison has insisted that they will receive no special treatment to be brought home.
“They have traveled there privately,” he said on Tuesday.
“This wasn’t part of an Australian tour. They’re under their own resources and they’ll be using those resources too, I’m sure, to see them return to Australia in accordance with their own arrangements.”
Separately, Cricket Australia released a statement which began declaring it would “assist where possible”.
“We will continue to liaise closely with the Australian government following today’s announcement that direct flights from India to Australia will be paused until 15 May, and monitor the situation between now and the tournament’s scheduled conclusion on 30 May,” it added.
But Karlie Andrews, girlfriend of Mumbai Indians star Chris Lynn, told the Daily Mail that she hoped the organization would put on a charter plane to get the group out of Asia.
“I know the IPL is doing everything they can to keep our players safe in their bubble,” Andrews said.
“And I know all partners would obviously love to have their significant other home safe and well ASAP when the IPL is complete.
“[But] hopefully [Chris] is home at the end of May. It is not ideal and I miss him heaps, but it won’t be forever and so I just have to hang in there,” she finished.
Away from the cricket world, the move from Morrison has been dubbed “racist” and “disproportionate” by some compatriots.
“This is an outrageous response. Australians have a right of return to their own country,” remarked Elaine Pearson, who is the director of Human Rights Watch in Australia.
“Indian-Australians are seeing this as a racist policy because we are being treated different than people from other countries who have had similar waves of infection like the US, the UK and Europe,” an Australian surgeon with family in India, Neela Janakiramanan, said, as quoted by Reuters.
“It is very hard to feel anything other than targeted as an ethnic group.”