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Australian cricketer reportedly tests positive to COVID-19 in India as IPL tournament is suspended

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Star batsman Steve Smith and other Australian cricketers isolating in India are stranded after the IPL was suspended amid a widening coronavirus outbreak, with reports Australian cricketer Michael Hussey is among those to test positive.

Hussey, who’s working as batting coach for the IPL’s Chennai Super Kings, is now undergoing a second test.

“Hussey tested positive. But his samples are being redone,” a team source told The Times of India.

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“Hopefully, the report will come negative.”

Hussey’s first test result comes after Chennai Super Kings bowling coach L Balaji and another team staff member tested positive.

Hussey and about 40 Australians at the tournament cannot return to Australia until at least 15 May because of a controversial ban by the Australian government.

And Cricket Australia and the players union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, say they won’t seek exemptions from the government ban.

Nationals of other countries playing in the Indian Premier League will begin returning home from Wednesday, a senior Indian cricket board official reportedly has told Reuters.

“We have been working on their travel plans in consultation with their respective boards so that each of them reach home safely,” the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official said requesting anonymity.

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“Some of them will return home tomorrow.”

The 11 English contingent face a mandatory 10-day quarantine period when they return home.

Tournament suspended

The competition was called off indefinitely after a fourth franchise from the lucrative Twenty20 tournament reported a positive COVID-19 test.

The captain of Smith’s Delhi Capitals – coached by Australian great Ricky Ponting – has tested positive.

Delhi skipper Amit Mishra’s positive test has forced Smith, his Australian teammate Marcus Stoinis and compatriots Ponting and bowling coach James Hopes into isolation.

Australians David Warner and Mitchell Marsh will also be isolated after the wicketkeeper at their franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, tested positive.

Warner shared a letter from his children on Instagram, asking him to return home.

Fellow countrymen Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting and assistant coach David Hussey, all at the Kolkata Knight Riders, had already been isolating after two players at their outfit tested positive.

Australian fast bowler Jason Behrendorff is also caught up in the outbreak with three staffers at his Chennai Super Kings testing positive.

The halt to the competition came as Indian society buckles with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases and more than 220,000 deaths from the virus.

“The tournament stands suspended,” IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said.

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“Right now, we can’t say when we can reschedule it.”

WATCH: Scott Morrison defends India travel ban

The BCCI said it would do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021.

But Australia’s cricketers and staffers will be forced to remain due to a ban on returning Australians, with India’s coronavirus count averaging almost 400,000 new cases daily.

Mr Morrison said on Tuesday the latest figures of coronavirus-positive cases in passengers coming out of India demanded the government pause flights.

Eight crossbenchers wrote to the prime minister asking him to revoke the pause and urgently repatriate Australians in India, starting with the most vulnerable, and set up a dedicated surge capacity quarantine facility in Australia.

The government’s returning traveller ban was attacked by ex-Australian cricketer and now commentator Michael Slater, who had been in India commentating on the IPL.

Slater, who has travelled from India to the Maldives, accused the prime minister of having blood on his hands – a claim Morrison described as absurd.

Australian cricketers Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye and Kane Richardson last week fled the IPL, returning home via Qatar.

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But any Australian attempting that journey now risks jail time and fines amid the travel ban, though the prime minister said such sanctions were remote.

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

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