Indian Premier League chiefs on Tuesday sought to reassure foreign stars in the tournament that they are “totally safe” even as the country battles a devastating coronavirus surge.
With many nations restricting travel from India, organisers of the world’s richest cricket tournament also vowed to make sure that all players get home once the league is over.
With more than 350,000 cases and 2,750 deaths per day, three Australian players have left their IPL teams in recent days. Others still in India admit they are on edge over the deadly surge.
“We understand that there are (a) few apprehensions and concerns regarding the general situation in India and the withdrawals of certain cricketers,” said acting Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief Hemang Amin in an email sent to players and coaches.
“We completely respect the decision taken by the players and extend our support to them in every way,” he added in the email, seen by AFP.
“At the same time, we would also assure you that you are totally safe within the bubble.”
Amin said the bio-secure bubbles which the players have been kept in had been strengthened because of the new fears.
All players and coaches are now tested every two days instead of every five, and outside food deliveries to team hotels have been banned.
“I am sure you will understand and co-operate with us on these steps,” he said, adding that player safety was “of paramount importance”.
Amin also acknowledged players’ worries about how they will go home when the tournament ends on May 30, saying that was “natural and understandable”.
Australians Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and A.J. Tye left the tournament this week but there are still 14 of their compatriots left with the eight teams, including David Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and Glenn Maxwell.
Chris Lynn has demanded that the Australian government lay on a charter flight for players at the end of the IPL, but this has been rejected.
Eleven English players — including one-day captain Eoin Morgan and top stars Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler — and 10 South Africans — including A.B. de Villiers and top bowler Kagiso Rabada — are still playing.
“We want to apprise you that you have nothing to worry about,” Amin said in the message.
“The BCCI will do everything to ensure that you reach your respective destinations seamlessly.”
The BCCI chief said “India faces unprecedented challenges stretching its healthcare and spirit” as he urged players to stick with the tournament.
“When you all walk out onto the field, you are bringing hope to millions of people who have tuned in,” said Amin.
“This time you are also playing for something much more important … humanity.”
© Agence France-Presse