Cricket stars leave IPL as India virus toll grows

New Delhi

Two Australian cricketers became the latest stars to pull out of the Indian Premier League on Tuesday as top bowler Pat Cummins said he was told the competition was being kept going to provide “a few hours of joy and respite” during India’s growing coronavirus crisis.

His fellow Australians Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson are returning home for “personal reasons”, their Royal Challengers Bangalore team said, joining Rajasthan Royals bowler Andrew Tye who flew back on Sunday.

India star Ravichandran Ashwin also withdrew to support his family on Sunday as the country staggers under 350,000 new infections and almost 3,000 deaths each day.

England batsman Liam Livingstone left the Royals last week just before Britain imposed a travel clampdown on India as its hospitals became overwhelmed and shortages of oxygen and hospital beds grew.

A handful of players, including India star Axar Patel, tested positive for coronavirus before the tournament.

The world’s richest cricket league has faced criticism for continuing in empty stadiums during the crisis, with a leading newspaper group accusing it of “commercialism gone crass” as it suspended coverage on Sunday.

IPL organisers were anxious to hold the tournament — said to generate billions of dollars for the Indian economy — after last year’s event was moved to the United Arab Emirates because of the pandemic risk.

Cummins, one of the most expensive foreign imports into the league, said he had felt “helpless” watching events in India and announced he was donating $50,000 to buy oxygen equipment.

“There has been quite a bit of discussion over here as to whether it is appropriate for the IPL to continue while Covid-19 infection rates remain high,” the Kolkata Knight Riders bowler said on Twitter.

“I am advised that the Indian government is of the view that playing the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day at an otherwise difficult situation for the country.”

Cummins, who is continuing to play in the IPL, urged other “privileged” players to also donate.

Players are being tested every two days in bio-secure bubbles where they will be based for eight weeks.—AFP

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