Cricket-Zampa, Richardson reach Australia after leaving IPL amid COVID crisis

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Royal Challengers Bangalore duo Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson arrived home in Australia on Thursday, cutting short their Indian Premier League (IPL) stints amid growing concerns over India's COVID-19 crisis.

The pair, plus compatriot Andrew Tye of Rajasthan Royals, have left the Twenty20 tournament as India continues to grapple with coronavirus infections which crossed 18 million on Thursday.

There were concerns the Bangalore duo could be stranded after the Australian government suspended flights from India until May 15 to prevent virulent COVID-19 variants from entering the country.

"Thanks to everyone for the messages of concern. Kane and I have both reached Melbourne safe and sound," Zampa, 29, said in a statement issued by the Bangalore franchise.

He thanked the Bangalore management for being "fully supportive" of their decision to leave the tournament, which is being played in a bio-bubble atmosphere and without spectators.

Zampa said leaving IPL was his "personal choice" and hoped the eight-team competition would continue as planned.

"I believe the tournament is in great hands and will definitely see the finish line," said the spinner.

Earlier, fellow Australian, Kolkata Knight Riders speedster Pat Cummins, said suspending the IPL was not the answer despite criticism of the league being played in the midst of India's national crisis.

About 40 Australians remain involved in the IPL as players, coaches, officials and commentators, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said they would not be allowed to jump the queue for repatriation flights when they resume.

The Australian Cricketers' Association said on Wednesday it was having "conversations" with governing body Cricket Australia and the Australian government on how to repatriate cricketers from India at the end of the IPL.

The regular IPL season ends on May 23, with playoffs to follow before the final on May 30.

A senior Indian cricket board official told Reuters on Wednesday the IPL would continue as it was providing solace and entertainment to people during hard times.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom and Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Ken Ferris)