The indefinite postponement of the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) due to players and support staff testing positive inside the bio-bubble has thrown up a lot of questions. How will the foreign players return home? What about the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final next month where India face New Zealand? The International Cricket Council (ICC), however, has confirmed that the WTC final would be played as per schedule, at Southampton from June 18-22.

How will the Australian players return home?

Three Australian players – Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson – had returned home earlier, pre-empting a travel ban on flights from India. At the time of the IPL postponement, the tournament had 14 Aussie players. There was a big question mark over their return, as the Australian government had banned all travellers from India, including Australian citizens, until May 15. Any breach was threatened to be dealt with a maximum penalty of five years’ jail sentence.

Former Australia opener Michael Slater, working in the IPL as a commentator, had left the bubble and went to the Maldives, hoping that he would be able to return home from there before May 15.

A denial irked him, and prompted a tweet: “Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect”.

On Tuesday, however, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison retreated on the jail threat. “I don’t think it would be fair to suggest these penalties in their most extreme forms are likely to be placed anywhere, but this is a way to ensure we can prevent the virus coming back,” Morrison told Channel Nine.

This improves the situation for the Australian cricketers in the IPL, although they will have to wait at least until May 15. In a joint press statement with the Australian Cricketers’ Association, Cricket Australia, too, said that they would “respect the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15 and will not seek exemptions”. Given the Covid spike in India, it needs to be seen if the Australian cricketers stay put here or prefer to go to the Maldives or Sri Lanka before returning home.

What about the other foreign cricketers?

Every cricketer and staff will have to return three negative Covid tests before leaving. In separate statements issued by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket South Africa (CSA), the two boards informed that they are in “close contact” with their respective players, and arrangements would be put in place for their return home.

In its press release, the IPL said: “The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021.” IPL Governing Council chairman Brijesh Patel told The Indian Express that franchises would make arrangements for the return of their foreign players, with the BCCI providing the necessary support.

What are the quarantine requirements in UK, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand?

The United Kingdom has a 10-day quarantine rule for incoming travellers. The Australian government has “approved mandatory quarantine for 14 days from arrival”. The South African government allows international travellers to get in if they “provide a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organization”, obtained “not more than 72 hours before the date of travel”. But if someone doesn’t provide the certificate and tests positive on arrival, “he or she will be required to isolate him or herself at his or her own cost, for a period of 10 days”. Travellers to New Zealand from outside quarantine-free travel zone countries “must complete a 14-day stay in managed isolation or quarantine”.

Restrictions are stricter for travellers from ‘red list’ or ‘high risk’ countries like India.

Is there a chance for another window for IPL this year?

It is learnt that the BCCI is looking into a November window for the resumption of the IPL, after the T20 World Cup. The tournament has been postponed after 29 matches and for the remaining 31 games, a short window in November remains an option. Depending on the Covid situation in the country then and the Future Tours Programme (FTP), the BCCI might take a call on the IPL’s resumption in India. In any case, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remains a back-up venue for the Indian board.

How and where will Indian players quarantine, considering now they are going home?

To start with, the IPL franchises will make arrangements for their departures. Those who have contracted Covid and the players and support staff isolating inside the bubble will have to follow the tournament quarantine protocols – six days’ isolation for close contacts and three negative tests before leaving.

Will Indian players be able to make it to England for the WTC final next month?

The UK government has placed India among the “travel ban red list” countries and its advisory says: “If you have been in a country on the travel ban red list in the 10 days before you arrive, you will need to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.”

Upon reaching England, two negative Covid tests are mandatory while in quarantine. The BCCI and ECB are in talks at the moment about the quarantine rules for Indian players and staff who will go to England for the WTC final. The ICC is in the loop as well. “We aren’t anticipating any changes,” an ICC spokesperson told The Indian Express.

It is learnt that once the squad for the WTC final is picked, the players will assemble in a bubble and undergo three rounds of Covid tests before taking a charter flight to England. They are likely to leave in early June.

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