IPL outbreak grows: Steve Smith joins Australians in isolation

Star batsman Steve Smith is among the latest Australians forced into isolation amid the Indian Premier League’s widening coronavirus outbreak.

Smith, allrounder Marcus Stoinis and their Australian-born coaches at Delhi Capitals, Ricky Ponting and James Hopes, have been told to isolate with the rest of their squad.

Three people associated with rivals Kolkata Knight Riders – Pat Cummins’ franchise – have tested positive to COVID-19.

The entire Delhi squad – the last team to play against that franchise on April 29 – are now in isolation.

Australia’s Delhi quartet join paceman Cummins and fellow Australians Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey in isolation in India.

Cummins and Cutting have been isolating since two teammates tested positive to coronavirus.

The Knight Riders’ Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier tested positive in Ahmedabad with reports suggesting they left the IPL’s biosecurity bubble for medical treatment.

Three staff members of the Chennai Super Kings, who are in Delhi, have also tested positive with that franchise also in isolation.

The Super Kings’ chief executive Kasi Viswanathan, bowling coach L Balaji and another staffer, believed to be a bus driver, tested positive on Sunday but returned negative reports on Monday, according to reports in India.

IPL organisers are reportedly considering shifting all games of the lucrative Twenty20 tournament to Mumbai as the outbreak creates political friction in Australia.

Earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed as “absurd” claims from Michael Slater that he has blood on his hands for banning Australian citizens from returning home from India.

Former Australia batsman Slater, who had been commentating in India and is attempting to return to Australia, launched a tirade against the prime minister on Monday night.

“If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace!!,” Slater wrote on Twitter.

“Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this.”

But Morrison hit back at the former cricketer on Tuesday when asked on the Nine Network’s Today Show if he had blood on his hands.

“No, that is obviously absurd,” Morrison said.

“We have a temporary pause in place because we have seen a rapid escalation in the infection rate of people who have travelled out of India that is putting enormous pressure on our system and we need to ensure we can bring people safely home from India.

“It’s a pause to May 15.”

Australian cricketers 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 such sanctions were “extremely remote”.

Cummins last week donated $50,000 to help India combat its COVID-19 crisis.

The fast bowler initially pledged the money to India’s PM Cares Fund but overnight on social media on Monday said he had diverted his donation to UNICEF Australia’s India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal.

Cummins is playing a central role in logistical discussions between stressed Australian cricketers, Cricket Australia (CA) and the players’ union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association.

Complicating matters is Australia’s limited-overs tour of the West Indies in June, with Cummins and other stars facing a tight turnaround if their homecoming is delayed.



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