The indefinite shutting of Australia’s international borders is bad policy, no matter how electorally appealing it is for our national government and alternative government.
But the result is the border remains shut indefinitely. Tens of thousands of Australian citizens and permanent residents have been caught since the Morrison government put up the Covid curtain in March last year. Almost ten thousand of these are stuck in the world’s top Covid hotspot, India.
Yet on Monday, 42 Australian cricketers, support staff and commentators arrived home by charter flight from the Maldives, where they had holed up after hurriedly leaving India when the Indian Premier League circus succumbed to Covid. One of these, former women’s cricketer and now commentator Lisa Sthalekar, wrote an impassioned (to put it charitably) piece in the Australian yesterday from which you could have been forgiven for believing she’d escaped from Colditz, not a resort in the Maldives.
In her piece, Sthalekar wrote, accusingly, ‘I felt hurt and let down by our government. It is not to say that I didn’t and don’t understand the gravity of the situation and what they were trying to do to keep Australia safe, but your own government saying you aren’t welcome home is an emotion that is hard to explain’.
Not just blaming the government for her plight, she lauded cricket authorities in India and Australia for getting her and the IPL contingent out of the WuFlu’s way.
With the contingent under fire for returning home ahead of others, Cricket Australia defended them by assuring us that no taxpayers were harmed in the remaking of The Great Escape. The costs of travel and quarantine are being fully paid by the Board of Cricket Control for India.
What CA really is saying that if you have the means, you can buy your way back ahead of everyone else. Can those overpaid and over-pampered cricketers and hangers-on really say that they are more deserving than a family member stranded in India after visiting and caring for elderly relatives in their former country, or whose Australian job is on the line, or their marriage is falling apart, or simply who haven’t seen close family members in the flesh for a year or more?
Cricket Australia should be honest with themselves as well as us. These jokers flew to India to make money, lots of it. They went knowing full well the border is shut, and travelled at their own risk when it came to exposure to Covid and, worse, exposure to Indian or Australian government red tape and arbitrary decisions in the name of suppressing the disease’s transmission.
That they got caught in India’s incompetently-managed second Covid wave, when they needn’t have been there at all, is their problem.
But their being able to jump the queue effectively paid for by the BCCI, is our problem.
What’s done is done. We can’t kick these people out again and send them to the back of the returning traveller queue.
But we can tell them what they did is wrong. It’s immoral. And in the language of the time when the now-debauched game was a by-word for gentlemanly conduct and fair play, it’s just not cricket.
Terry Barnes edits our daily newsletter, the Morning Double Shot. You can sign up for your Morning Double Shot of news and comment here.
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