Former Test cricketer turned commentator Michael Slater has accused Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, of having “blood on his hands” as the Covid-19 crisis escalates in India.
Slater, who has been in India to commentate on the IPL, said in a Twitter post on Monday night that the government’s policy of temporarily preventing Australians from returning home was a “disgrace”.
With Covid cases soaring, flights from India have been banned by the Morrison government until 15 May. Penalties include a hefty fine or even jail for citizens attempting to repatriate.
Slater, who reportedly flew to the Maldives with no way back to Australia after the ban was introduced, said fellow citizens stranded in India were being neglected by their government.
“If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home,” he wrote. “It’s a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM.
“How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out [the] quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.”
It comes after Monday night’s IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challenges Bangalore was called off after a breach of the tournament’s biosecurity bubble.
Kolkata’s Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier tested positive for Covid, forcing the rest of the team, including Australians Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting and coach David Hussey, into isolation.
The positive tests have increased pressure on tournament organisers and fuelled speculation the IPL may be suspended.
Should the tournament be shut down, the sizeable Australian contingent remaining in India will find themselves in limbo – without any cricket and with no way home until at least 15 May.
Chartering a flight could provide a way out but would still need federal government approval.
However, Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley said on Monday “there’s no suggestion at the moment of any charter flight”.
“As we get closer to the end of the tournament, we’ll need to see where the situation is at,” he told Sen.
Slater, who faces the best part of two weeks at least in the Maldives, hit back at suggestions his situation was self-inflicted.
“And for those who think this is a money exercise, well, forget it,” he wrote. “This is what I do for a living and I have not made a penny having left early.
“So please stop the abuse and think of the thousands dying in India each day. It’s called empathy. If only our government had some.”
On Tuesday morning, Morrison said he “respectfully disagreed” with Slater and other critics of the travel ban.
“I thank all of those who are in this difficult situation for their patience and their understanding,” Morrison said. “I am working to bring them home safely.
“I am going to take decisions that I believe will protect Australia from a third wave and help me to be able to reach out and bring more Australians safely home from places where they are in difficult situations.”
Earlier, Morrison had called for patience from the cricketers.
“Well I’d just ask them, like the many Australians that are in India at present, to be patient and understanding,” he said. “This is a two-week pause. It’s not a permanent pause, it’s not a four-month lockdown.”
Some Australians have escaped the worsening situation in India: Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson all left last week, leaving about 30 players, coaches and staff to see out the season, which is scheduled to end on 30 May.