The Dominion Post
Taking off to safety?
New Zealand Cricket is working frantically behind the scenes to fly nine Black Caps and support staff from India to England, and confirm travel home for the rest of the Kiwi contingent at the suspended Indian Premier League.
IPL organisers indefinitely postponed the 2021 edition on Tuesday amid a worsening Covid crisis, as three of the eight teams reported positive cases in their bubbles this week.
‘‘The BCCI will do everything
in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants,’’ IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said.
That’s easier said than done for anxious New Zealanders, some of whom are in hotel lockdown in various Indian cities while flights out of the country are scarce.
NZC public affairs manager Richard Boock said plans were being formulated with India and England administrators to fly the New Zealand and England contingent to the UK ahead of next month’s two-test series.
The Times reported some of England’s 11 IPL players – Jos Buttler, Jason Roy and the Curran
brothers, Sam and Tom – had already boarded flights home.
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner were already booked to travel to England and join the test squad in late May/early June, along with strength and conditioning coach Chris Donaldson and physiotherapist Tommy Simsek, an Australian, who are all with IPL teams.
IPL players Lockie Ferguson, Jimmy Neesham and Finn Allen have signed with Twenty20 Blast teams in the UK so would join the above six on the flight when it was arranged in the coming days, Boock said.
Travellers from India are required to complete 10 days of managed isolation, and the New Zealand cricketers will require a UK government exemption to enter. Daily commercial flights continue between Mumbai and London, with only UK citizens allowed automatic entry.
‘‘We’re confident the players going to the UK will be able to get an exemption and do their MIQ there. We’re working now with the ECB and BCCI to arrange flights to get them over to England,’’ Boock said.
In an unexpected bonus for the Black Caps, it means they will be at full strength for the first test against England at Lord’s on June 2, when it looked as if the IPL quartet would miss that match in the leadup to the World Test Championship final against India at Southampton on June 18.
That leaves Black Caps Tim Seifert, Adam Milne and Scott Kuggeleijn who are returning to New Zealand, along with coaches Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum, Shane Bond and Kyle Mills and top umpire Chris Gaffaney.
Confirming flights to New Zealand is the toughest part. The Government relaxed border restrictions last month to allow New Zealand citizens to travel from India, while MIQ vouchers were more plentiful now and had been secured for those returning home.
NZ Cricket Players’ Association chief executive Heath Mills said: ‘‘Like all New Zealanders in India, they’re trying to work through how that happens with very few flights. It’s been a challenging few hours.’’
Mills said there was little the CPA could do from afar, apart from offer support to individuals.
No New Zealanders had tested positive.
‘‘It’s a logistical challenge but there’s no question that NZ Cricket have their health and safety as the No 1 priority as they try and work through that. Unfortunately it can’t be worked through quickly,’’ Mills said.
‘‘... we have players coming from different cities and different team environments, and some teams which have had Covid and others that haven’t.’’
Players and officials consistently stated they felt safe and secure in their tightly controlled bubbles as 29 matches were completed in various cities before this week’s breach.
There was also a sense of unease among some at the worsening crisis outside the hotels and stadia, which has seen nearly 400,000 daily cases reported in India.