Cricket SA hopes players will be back from IPL by the end of the week
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JOHANNESBURG – Cricket South Africa is hopeful that all the South Africans – players and support staff – who were participating in the Indian Premier League, will be back in the country by Thursday.
A number of logistical hurdles need to be overcome, but Cricket SA and the players union - the SA Cricketers Association - are confident that the 11 players, along with the support staff contracted to various teams will be back in the country before the end of the week. They will all have to quarantine for between 10 and 14 days.
Cricket SA said Tuesday it had “made contact with all the relevant franchises, to ensure the expedited travel off all South African players and support staff back to our shores.”
The Board of Control for Cricket in India indefinitely postponed the lucrative T20 tournament on Tuesday morning, after a fourth team had a player or official test positive for Covid-19. The pandemic has ravaged India in recent weeks, with more than 300000 new cases per day reported for the last 13 days.
“This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind,” said a statement released by the IPL’s organisers on Tuesday. “These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.”
The tournament had been taking place in a ‘bio bubble,’ but unlike the strict measures imposed by Cricket SA when it hosted tours here by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and then held domestic limited overs competitions in one city, the IPL was being hosted in five different cities. At the time the competition was postponed all eight teams were either in Delhi or Ahmedabad.
Getting the players from those two cities onto flights has proven to be a significant challenge, with the most optimal route still open to get to South Africa being through Doha in Qatar.
The BCCI will pay for all flights for players and officials.
On a chaotic day, players privately described to IOL/Independent Media, scenes of mayhem in hotels as players scrambled to make arrangements to leave India on Tuesday. There had been concerns initially, that the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, who play for the Delhi Capitals and Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir and Lungi Ngidi, who play for the Chennai Super Kings might have to serve a seven day quarantine in India before travelling.
Three positive tests were returned by officials and a coach attached to the Super Kings, while Delhi had recently faced the Kolkata KnightRiders which had three players test positive on Monday. On Tuesday it was also confirmed that, the Capitals leg-spinner Amit Mishra had tested positive as well.
However it appears that following talks on Tuesday, all the South Africans will be allowed travel as soon as possible. All the players have been regularly tested - up to three times a week - as part of the protocols in the ‘bio bubble,’ so will have the necessary documentation that will allow them back into the country. South Africa’s laws demand that all travelers provide proof of a negative test within 72 hours of travel.
The IPL has faced severe criticism in India as it has played out amidst the deadly crisis that has destabilised the country. The ‘bio bubble’ has seen teams travel between different cities, with special entry points at airports, while ambulances and special entrances at private hospitals have been made available for the teams, despite many citizens in India not having access to basic medical supplies.
Nevertheless the BCCI insisted on Tuesday that it was still looking to get the tournament restarted at a different date later this year. “I want to make it clear that IPL 2021 has not been cancelled,” said the BCCI’s vice-president Rajeev Shukla. “It has been suspended, it has been postponed, it has been deferred, so it will happen. The remaining part of this year's IPL will happen. But in due course, when the covid situation improves, a decision will be taken about it."
India is also set to host the men’s T20 World Cup in October. The International Cricket Council has already started looking at shifting that event to the UAE, with countries highly unlikely to want to send their national teams to India. A decision on moving that tournament will be made later this month.