The majority of Australia’s stranded cricket cohort has returned home after a charter flight carrying the Indian Premier League players, coaches and broadcasters touched down in Sydney on Monday morning.
Most of the 38-strong group, who escaped to the Maldives following the postponement of the lucrative Twenty20 tournament due to the Covid crisis, arrived on a flight paid for by the BCCI, the game’s governing body in India.
The group has entered New South Wales’s quarantine system, where they have reportedly been spread across a number of different hotels and where they will stay for the next two weeks. The arrangement is believed to also have been organised and paid for by the BCCI.
State premier Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW government made the decision to allow the group to return following independent assessments from health and police.
Former Test batsman and now coach Mike Hussey, who tested positive for coronavirus and was forced to remain in India in self-isolation, is expected to follow later on Monday on a commercial flight via Qatar.
“We don’t give a blanket yes to anybody,” Berejiklian said. “A request was made to go over and above our cap. If we get these requests through federal government authorities or other authorities, our health and police teams make independent assessments.
“For example … seasonal workers or other categories of people. We have received those requests and we have dealt with them through independent assessment from health and police.
“If health and police feel that we can’t go over our cap at all for a particular reason, well, that request will be denied.”
The government’s controversial travel ban expired as expected on Saturday, allowing the cricketers to finally return home two weeks after the IPL was suspended on 4 May amid the worsening crisis in India.
The supposed biosecure bubble surrounding the tournament was breached when a number of players and support staff returned positive tests, forcing organisers to concede it had become untenable.
Unlike last year, when Indian players arriving in Australia for their summer tour were allowed to train during their quarantine, no exemptions or concessions have been granted to this group.
The arrivals will come over and above the caps in place for regular returning travellers to NSW, primer minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
“They haven’t been given any [special dispensation],” Morrison said. “NSW government is happy for them to come in over the cap. That’s something we insisted upon and they were happy to agree with that.
“But they’ll come back under their own steam, on their own ticket. They won’t be taking the spot in quarantine of any other Australian who is returning home under the NSW caps.
“We appreciate the fact that the NSW government and Gladys Berejiklian in particular has been so strong in supporting those higher caps, but in this case, ensuring that when the cricketers come back they don’t take the spot of anybody else.”
With flights from India to Australia banned and sanctions including hefty fines and even prison time threatened for anyone attempting to make the journey, the cricketers flew to the Maldives on 6 May where they waited for the travel policy to be lifted.