Australia’s Indian Premier League (IPL) contingent will be evacuated en masse from India to either the Maldives or Sri Lanka as they wait for the lifting of a travel ban to return home.
Some 38 Australians, including 24 IPL players and coaches and commentators, are in isolation in India after the IPL was suspended amid India’s worsening coronavirus crisis.
The Australians cannot return home until at least 15 May because the Morrison government has banned any Australian in India from returning until that date.
Cricket Australia’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley expects the Australians to depart India in two or three days for either the Maldives or Sri Lanka.
They will then return home on a charter flight organised by Indian cricket’s governing body.
“The absolute priority is to get them home safe and well,” Mr Hockley told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
“We are not seeking any kind of special exemptions whatsoever.”
Batting great Michael Hussey is the only Australian among the 38 to have tested positive to COVID-19.
Hussey, the batting coach for the IPL’s Chennai Super Kings, is awaiting results from a second test.
Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Todd Greenberg said Hussey would not leave with the other Australians as he must spend 10 days isolating in India.
“He’s in good spirits … his symptoms are quite mild,” Mr Greenberg told reporters.
The lucrative IPL Twenty20 tournament was suspended after four franchises have reported positive COVID-19 tests to players or staffers.
Other international players immediately began preparing to fly home.
But the Australians were in limbo because of the government ban on any Australian in India returning home until at least 15 May.
“They are still a long way from home … we don’t have a definitive timeline on when they will go (from India),” Mr Greenberg said.
Cricket Australia and the players union said the players won’t seek exemptions from the government ban.
The group includes 14 players, including star batsman Steve Smith.
The captain of Smith’s Delhi Capitals, coached by Australian great Ricky Ponting, has tested positive.
Delhi skipper Amit Mishra’s positive test has forced Smith, his Australian teammate Marcus Stoinis and compatriots Ponting and bowling coach James Hopes into isolation.
Australians David Warner and Mitchell Marsh will also be isolated after the wicketkeeper at their franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, tested positive.
WATCH: Scott Morrison defends India travel ban
Fellow countrymen Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey, all at the Kolkata Knight Riders, had already been isolating after two players at their outfit tested positive.
Australian fast bowler Jason Behrendorff is also caught up in the outbreak as a member of the Super Kings franchise.
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.
The IPL halt came as Indian society buckles with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases and more than 220,000 deaths from the virus.
The BCCI said it would do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021.