England’s 11 Indian Premier League players have started to fly home, the PA news agency understands.
The tournament was postponed indefinitely on Tuesday morning due to the country’s ongoing coronavirus crisis, with the lucrative Twenty20 competition previously taking place against the grim backdrop of a public health emergency.
India’s daily infection rates recently topped 400,000 and mass oxygen shortages had been reported before the IPL was finally suspended after positive cases in three of the eight franchises were recorded to show the players’ bio-secure bubbles are no longer safe.
The majority of England’s players involved in the tournament are expected to fly home on Tuesday night and once they do arrive on UK shores, they can expect a mandatory 10-day quarantine in a Government-approved hotel due to India’s status as a ‘red list’ country.
While organisers had attempted to position the IPL as a potential source of succour and entertainment for a cricket-loving population in the grip of a hard lockdown, it was suspended with just over half of its 60 scheduled matches completed.
With squads in isolation, fixtures deferred and confidence in the environment waning, the league’s general council unanimously voted to call a stop, with attention instead turning to seeing participants off in a timely and safe manner.
Anxiety was growing among the English contingent, headed up by limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan, despite the England and Wales Cricket Board being on hand to provide support and advice on a daily basis.
Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan, Sam Billings, Jason Roy, Tom and Sam Curran made up the 10 other England players still at the tournament after Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer’s participation was curtailed by injuries.
Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders), Bairstow and Roy (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Moeen Ali and Sam Curran (Chennai Super Kings) were all at franchises that had positive cases in camp and earlier on Tuesday the ECB thanked the Board of Control for Cricket in India, who had taken the lead on repatriation.
A spokesperson said: “Following (Tuesday) morning’s postponement of the Indian Premier League, we are in close contact with our players and staff in India as arrangements are put in place for them to return home safely.
“The ECB understands the BCCI’s decision to postpone the competition for the safety and well-being of those involved, and thanks the BCCI for its commitment to do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all those taking part in the competition.
“Our thoughts remain with the people of India during these challenging times.”
A statement had been issued by the IPL a matter of hours earlier, reading: “The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind.
“These are difficult times, especially in India and, while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is 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.”
When or if this year’s IPL will be completed remains to be seen, with the crammed global calendar offering precious few gaps, and the planned Twenty20 World Cup in India – set for October – is now in serious doubt.
The International Cricket Council has previously confirmed back-up plans for the tournament are in place, with the United Arab Emirates the preferred stand-in, and the early conclusion to the IPL suggests they could now be accelerated.