Indian Premier League: England players start to fly home following tournament's postponement

Tuesday 4th May 2021 18:45 BST

It is understood Sam Billings, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow have managed to secure flights back to the UK earlier than initially expected.

It had been anticipated that all IPL players would be required to self-isolate in India and test negative before leaving the country.

The players will still have to quarantine for 10 days at a government-approved hotel upon arrival in UK, as India is a 'red list' country.

The lucrative Twenty20 competition has been taking place against the backdrop of a public health emergency, with India's daily infection rates recently topping 400,000 and mass oxygen shortages being reported, but was finally suspended on Tuesday with just half of its 60 scheduled matches completed.

While organisers had attempted to position the IPL as a potential source of succour and entertainment for a cricket-loving population in the grip of a hard lockdown, positive cases in three of the eight franchises changed the landscape and effectively proved that the players' bio-secure bubbles were no longer able to stave off the threat.

With squads in isolation, fixtures deferred and confidence in the environment waning, the league's general council unanimously voted to call a stop, with attention instead turning to seeing participants off in a timely and safe manner.

The English contingent, headed up by limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan, have been anxious over the situation for some time.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has been providing support and advice on a daily basis but has always treated participation as an individual choice.

Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders), Bairstow and Jason Roy (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Moeen Ali and Sam Curran (Chennai Super Kings) are all at franchises that have had positive cases in camp.

Players last week received an email from IPL chief executive Hemang Amin assuring them "the tournament is not over for BCCI till each one of you has reached your home, safe and sound".

The International Cricket Council has previously confirmed back-up plans for the tournament are in place, with the United Arab Emirates the preferred stand-in, and the early conclusion to the IPL suggests they could now be accelerated.

However, speaking to Sky Sports News on Tuesday, former England batsman Michael Atherton believes it will be difficult for the competition to be rescheduled.

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