Star cricketer Steve Smith and other Australians isolating in India are stranded after the IPL was suspended amid a widening coronavirus outbreak.
Indian cricket officials say they’ll work to secure safe passage home for all IPL participants.
But Smith and about 40 Australians at the tournament must stay in India until at least May 15 because of a government ban on any Australians returning before that.
A fourth franchise from the lucrative Twenty20 tournament reporting a positive COVID-19 test prompted the competition to be called off indefinitely.
The captain of Smith’s Delhi Capitals – coached by Australian great Ricky Ponting – has tested positive.
Delhi skipper Amit Mishra’s positive test has forced Smith, his Australian teammate Marcus Stoinis and compatriots Ponting and bowling coach James Hopes into isolation.
Australians David Warner and Mitchell Marsh will also be isolated after the wicketkeeper at their franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, tested positive.
Fellow countrymen Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey, all at the Kolkata Knight Riders, had already been isolating after two players at their outfit tested positive.
And Australian fast bowler Jason Behrendorff is also caught up in the outbreak with three staffers at his Chennai Super Kings testing positive.
As Indian society buckles with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases and more than 220,000 deaths from the virus, the IPL halted competition.
“The tournament stands suspended,” IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said.
“Right now, we can’t say when we can reschedule it.”
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) voted unanimously to suspend the tournament, which had been due to finish on May 30.
In a statement, the BCCI said it was “imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.
“The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021,” a BCCI statement said.
But Australia’s cricketers and staffers will be forced to remain behind with Prime Minister Scott Morrison enforcing a ban on returning Australians, with India’s coronavirus count averaging almost 400,000 new cases daily.
Former Australia batsman Slater, who had been commentating in India and is attempting to return to Australia, launched a tirade against the prime minister on Monday night.
“If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace!!,” Slater wrote on Twitter.
“Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this.”
But Morrison hit back at the former cricketer on Tuesday when asked on the Nine Network’s Today Show if he had blood on his hands.
“No, that is obviously absurd,” Morrison said.
“We have a temporary pause in place because we have seen a rapid escalation in the infection rate of people who have travelled out of India that is putting enormous pressure on our system and we need to ensure we can bring people safely home from India.
“It’s a pause to May 15.”
Australian cricketers Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson last week fled the IPL, returning home via Qatar.
But any Australian attempting that journey now risks jail time and fines amid the travel ban, though the prime minister said such sanctions were “extremely remote”.
Cummins last week donated $50,000 to help India combat its COVID-19 crisis.
The fast bowler initially pledged the money to India’s PM Cares Fund but overnight on social media on Monday said he had diverted his donation to UNICEF Australia’s India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal.
Cummins is playing a central role in logistical discussions between stressed Australian cricketers, Cricket Australia (CA) and the players’ union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association.
Complicating matters is Australia’s limited-overs tour of the West Indies in June, with Cummins and other stars facing a tight turnaround if their homecoming is delayed.