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Australian cricket stars flown to Maldives from Covid-stricken India

Aussie cricket stars are flown out of Covid-stricken India as the entire cohort is taken to safety in a luxury Maldives paradise – while 9,000 ordinary Australians remain trapped

Australia’s cricket stars have left India for the luxurious safety of the Maldives, just days after the IPL was suspended indefinitely. 

Cricket Australia announced on Thursday that a 38-strong cohort of Aussie players, coaches, commentators, umpires and support staff will remain in the Maldives until the travel ban from India is lifted after May 15. 

The organisation also said that some of the sport’s biggest names, including David Warner, Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis and Ricky Ponting, are not seeking a travel exemption to bypass travel bans from the Australian government.  

They spend at least 10 days in Maldives and will then have to quarantine for another 14 days once they return to Australia on a charter flight organised by Indian cricket’s governing body.

Upon arriving in the Maldives, travellers need only present a negative Covid-19 test from the last 96 hours.

Then they must wait the government-mandated two weeks before flying back to Australia.

Cricket Australia’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said on Wednesday: ‘The absolute priority is to get them home safe and well.’

‘We’re not seeking any kind of special exemptions whatsoever.’ 

Former Australian batsman Michael Hussey must remain in isolation in his hotel room in India for another 10 days after he tested positive on Tuesday.

‘He’s in good spirits … his symptoms are quite mild,’ Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Todd Greenberg told reporters.

‘He has relatively mid symptoms.’

Those heading to the Maldives will join former Australian opener Michael Slater, who was working as a commentator in India but managed to escape to the tropical island paradise earlier this week as the coronavirus crisis in India worsens.

A three-and-half hour flight away, there were about 450 new cases in the Maldives this each day this week, which is dwarfed by the 400,000 infections seen daily in India. 

Cases have soared past 20 million in India since the pandemic began and deaths have surpassed 220,000, with the nation’s health system on the brink of collapse.

Australia bowlers Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson last week fled the IPL, returning home via Qatar.

But any Australian attempting that journey now risks jail time and fines amid the travel ban, though the prime minister said the possibility of such sanctions were remote.

Greenberg said players are keen to return home at the earliest opportunity and briefly weighed in on the federal government’s border closure.

‘They always knew when they’d have to do isolation when they came back into the country. They didn’t expect the borders to be closed, and that created some anxiety for them,’ he said.

‘They’re very hopeful that the government will reopen after the 15th, but we’re under no illusion that’s the decision the government has to make.’ 

More to follow.