Thursday, December 2News That Matters

Pressure grows on ECB to bring England players home from the Indian Premier League

Pressure was increasing last night on England to bring their Indian Premier League players home as fears grew over the future of cricket’s most lucrative competition.

The IPL is carrying on against the backdrop of India’s Covid emergency, with daily infections topping 350,000 and reports of oxygen shortages and hospitals unable to cope.

More questions were raised about the viability of a tournament that is due to continue until May 30 when three Australian players — Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson — pulled out over the weekend.

Pressure is increasing to bring some of England’s cricketers home after the Indian Premier League opted to carry on despite India’s coronavirus crisis

India is currently reporting around 350,000 Covid-19 cases a day with hospitals struggling

India is currently reporting around 350,000 Covid-19 cases a day with hospitals struggling

India is currently reporting around 350,000 Covid-19 cases a day with hospitals struggling

One of India’s most high- profile players, Ravichandran Ashwin, also stood down from his role with Delhi Capitals, citing the need to help his extended family through the crisis.

The ECB insist they will leave it to the 11 English players in India to make their own minds up rather than tell them to return from a country now on the Government’s red list.

But on Monday there was no sign that any of them — Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Sam and Tom Curran, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes, Sam Billings, Chris Jordan and Dawid Malan — were ready to follow the Australians’ lead.

Ben Stokes has returned to England having broken a finger in his first game of this year’s IPL for Rajasthan, while Liam Livingstone also left the Royals, citing bubble fatigue. Jofra Archer was ruled out to concentrate on regaining full fitness with Sussex after elbow and finger problems rather than quarantine and play in India.

‘We continue to monitor and work with the players on an individual basis,’ an ECB spokesperson told Sportsmail. ‘There’s no indication any players want to come home early at this stage. Our thoughts are with the people of India during these difficult times.’

It is a delicate situation for the ECB, who are due to host both the India men’s and women’s teams this summer and are also desperate to recruit Indian players for their new Hundred competition, if not this season then next. 

But the governing body have a duty of care to their players, even if they are not all on full central contracts, and nervousness is clearly growing about the situation in what is now the world’s worst-affected country by Covid-19.

Australia's Adam Zampa is one of the players to pull out of the IPL over coronavirus concerns

Australia's Adam Zampa is one of the players to pull out of the IPL over coronavirus concerns

Zampa's Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate Kane Richardson has also flown home

Zampa's Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate Kane Richardson has also flown home

Australia’s Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson have pulled out of the IPL due to the crisis

‘It’s challenging and it does have to be managed,’ said Morgan of life in the Indian bubble after leading Kolkata to a five-wicket victory over Punjab in Ahmedabad.

‘When you consider the horrific nature of what’s happening outside our bubble we try to lend our support not just in India but around the world. Having seen at home how devastating this can be I’d like to say on behalf of Kolkata we wish everybody well.’

It has not escaped the attention of many that England’s white-ball team — led by Morgan — were quick to pull the plug on their far less lucrative tour of South Africa before Christmas due to Covid.

Certainly the three fleeing Australian players moved quickly to get home when it became clear their government were preparing to stop incoming flights from India.

India's biggest star - Ravichandran Ashwin - has also pulled out of the competition for safety

India's biggest star - Ravichandran Ashwin - has also pulled out of the competition for safety

India’s biggest star – Ravichandran Ashwin – has also pulled out of the competition for safety

England 2019 World Cup heroes Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow (left to right) all play in the IPL

England 2019 World Cup heroes Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow (left to right) all play in the IPL

England 2019 World Cup heroes Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow (left to right) all play in the IPL

Andrew Tye was another Australian player to flee India amid the crisis, citing safety concerns

Andrew Tye was another Australian player to flee India amid the crisis, citing safety concerns

Andrew Tye was another Australian player to flee India amid the crisis, citing safety concerns

I just thought I’d get on the front foot and get home before I got locked out of the country,’ said Tye. ‘We were safe in India but is it going to stay safe? Looking at it from an Indian view, how are these companies and franchises, and the government, spending so much money on the IPL when there are people not being able to get accepted into hospital?’

But one of Australia’s most high-profile players at the IPL, Pat Cummins, vowed to stay and pledged $50,000 of his Kolkata salary to India’s pandemic response. Sportsmail understands England players are likely to follow suit.

‘I’m advised the Indian government is of the view that playing the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of respite and joy each day at an otherwise difficult time for the country,’ said Cummins.