Mumbai Indians opener Chris Lynn has urged Cricket Australia (CA) to arrange for a chartered flight to bring Australians home at the conclusion of the ongoing IPL as the country temporarily halts arrivals from India.
Lynn was speaking before the latest update from the Australian government on Tuesday when the Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a ban on direct flights - both commercial and the government's repatriation services - from India until May 15 and the use of connecting flights (for example via Doha or Dubai) into the country.
"I texted back that as Cricket Australia make 10% of every IPL contract, was there a chance we could spend that money this year on a charter flight once the tournament is over?" Lynn told News Corp media.
When asked specifically about the cricketers in India, Morrison said there would not be any preferential treatment if repatriation flights resumed later in May. The group stage of the IPL is due to finish on May 23 with the final on May 30.
"This wasn't part of an Australian tour," he said. "They're under their own resources. And they'll be using those resources to, I'm sure, to see them return to Australia in accordance with their own arrangements."
It is understood that Cricket Australia are assessing the ramifications of today's announcement but that the use of a charter flight is not yet the likely option. Although not directly involved in the players' involvement at the IPL beyond issuing No Objection Certificates, CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association have been in regular contact with them plus the Australian coaching staff, broadcasters and commentators working on the tournament.
While Andrew Tye became the first player from Australia to leave this IPL on Sunday fearing that he may not be able to return home later, his national team-mates Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa also opted out due to "personal reasons". Earlier, England's Liam Livingstone had left the tournament citing "bubble fatigue", before India and Delhi Capitals' offspinner R Ashwin also chose to sit out to be with his family.
Lynn hoped that once the other Australian players - including David Warner, Steven Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith - were done with the IPL, "the government will let us get home on a private charter", especially because they would be "getting vaccinated next week".
"I know there are people worse off than us. But we are going from a really tight bubble and are getting vaccinated next week so hopefully the government will let us get home on a private charter," he said.
On Monday, the Kolkata Knight Riders pacer Pat Cummins also spoke about the worsening situation in India, having also donated US $50,000 to the country's PM Cares fund "specifically to purchase oxygen supplies for India's hospitals". Announcing the move on Twitter, he also urged his fellow IPL players to come forward and contribute.
"There has been quite a bit of discussion over here as to whether it is appropriate for the IPL to continue while COVID-19 infection rates remain high," Cummins wrote. "I'm advised that the Indian Government is of the view that playing the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day at an otherwise difficult time for the country."
But David Hussey, the Knight Riders' assistant coach, admitted that his countrymen were a "bit nervous" if they could get back home.
"A couple of players, their fathers have passed away," Hussey told the Sydney Morning Herald. "One person in particular, he's one of the staff members with us and his father passed away last year from COVID, and he was really pragmatic by saying it was his time to go. From a Kolkata point of view, we're desperate for the tournament to keep going, purely because everyone's in lockdown, there's not much else to do."
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who is now the Capitals' coach, stated that they are "probably the safest people in the country probably because of the bubbles we are in".
"This IPL, probably more than any other, has become more about what's happening on the outside rather than what's happening here," Ponting said.
India has recorded over a million Covid-19 cases over the last three days, with 352,991 new cases reported on Monday. The country has already been put on the Covid-19 red-list by the UK.