(Updates with details of flight)
MELBOURNE, April 29 (Reuters) – Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson have flown out of India after withdrawing from the Indian Premier League amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 crisis in the south Asian nation.
Zampa and Richardson, team mates for Royal Challengers Bangalore, were expected home in Australia later on Thursday, the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), the players union, said.
There were concerns the pair were stranded after the Australian government suspended flights from India until May 15 to prevent virulent COVID-19 variants from entering the country. Australian newspaper reported they had secured seats on a charter plane organised by another party but an ACA spokesman said they had boarded a regular commercial flight via Doha and had booked their tickets before the suspension.
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.
India recorded 360,960 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the world’s largest single-day total, and the death toll surged past 200,000 amid shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen. ACA 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. regular IPL season ends on May 23, with playoffs to follow before the final on May 30.
IPL organisers have faced mounting criticism from pundits and on social media for pushing ahead with the tournament which is being played in a biosecure bubble amid the health crisis.
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.