India’s Ashwin, other cricketers withdraw from IPL over COVID

India’s R Ashwin and three Australian cricketers withdraw from the Indian Premier League as the country battles a devastating COVID surge.

India's star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin [File: Saeed Khan/AFP]

Two Australian cricketers have become the latest players to pull out of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is taking place despite the country battling a devastating coronavirus surge and rising death rates.

The IPL has attracted criticism for continuing even as the country’s healthcare system reels from more than 350,000 daily infections and almost 3,000 deaths a day from the virus.

On Monday, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson’s franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore tweeted that the players are “returning to Australia for personal reasons and will be unavailable for the remainder of #IPL2021”.

“Royal Challengers Bangalore management respects their decision and offers them complete support,” it added.

‘Tough times’

India star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also withdrew from the IPL Twenty20 tournament on Sunday to support his family during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashwin, 34, a key Test and ODI player, said he would be taking a break from playing in the lucrative T20 franchise tournament with the Delhi Capitals team.

“My family and extended family are putting up a fight against #COVID19 and I want to support them during these tough times,” Ashwin tweeted.

“I expect to return to play if things go in the right direction. Thank you @DelhiCapitals.”

Ashwin’s decision is a major blow for the money-spinning event which is being held behind closed doors and runs until May 30.

Delhi said they supported the decision taken by Ashwin.

“Extending our full support to you in these difficult times, @ashwinravi99 Sending you and your family all the strength and prayers from all of us at Delhi Capitals,” the team tweeted.

Ashwin has played 77 Tests in a 10-year international career as well as 111 ODIs and 46 T20 Internationals. He has 409 Test wickets, one of just 16 bowlers in history to break the 400-mark.

Australian fast bowler Andrew Tye also pulled out of IPL.

Tye, who was with the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, flew back to Sydney on Sunday via Mumbai and Doha, citing the “stress of bubble life” and concerns about borders closing in Australia.

“Some of the guys are very interested in what route I took home and how I approached it. Other guys are just happy to make sure I’m OK and make sure I’m in a good space,” Tye said, according to Australian radio station SEN WA.

“There are some concerns. I’m not sure if I’ll be the only one, but that’s too early for me to say.”

A number of Australia’s top cricketers remain in India, including batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner, and paceman Pat Cummins.

Governing body Cricket Australia and the Australian players union said they were in “regular contact” with Australian players, coaches and commentators at the IPL.

“We will continue to listen to feedback from those on the ground in India and the advice of the Australian government,” the bodies said in a joint statement.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who coaches the Delhi Capitals, suggested he would not be among those to pull out of the league.

“Even with the country being in a situation that it is, I think cricket can still bring a lot of joy to people,” he said in comments published by ESPNCricinfo.

“So it is important for us to be doing what we can as cricketers and as coaches and as a franchise to putting on the best show as possible to give the people something that they’d like to see.”

On Sunday, a leading Indian newspaper group suspended coverage of the IPL, calling the tournament “commercialism gone crass” and “incongruous” as the record-breaking pandemic surge grips the country.

Express Publications said in a front-page editorial of its flagship English-language daily, the New Indian Express, that the paper was halting reporting on the Twenty20 event until a “semblance of normalcy is restored”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies