At the risk of being called a d*ckhead by Australian captain Tim Paine, what’s with the way we’re treating these Indian cricketers?
Over the last eight months or so the Queensland government has rolled out the red carpet to accommodate every group of athletes and their assorted hangers-on from AFL and NRL players to netballers and Supercar drivers.
In the lead up to a State election Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her sidekicks, deputy Steven Miles and chief health officer Jeanette Young, bent the rules to the point of breaking.
They allowed 30,000 to attend the AFL grand final and over 50,000 into a State of Origin match, while funerals were restricted to a handful and anyone caught dancing at a wedding risked being dragged away in leg-irons.
Planeloads of high-ranking sports officials and their families were welcomed into the State like visiting royalty while people living 500 metres over the NSW border had to queue up at checkpoints for hours to cross into Queensland for their work commute.
And that’s not even mentioning the ‘one set of rules for some, another set for others’ treatment afforded the likes of Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Dannii Minogue who were allowed to self-isolate in luxury private accommodation at the Gold Coast.
Yet when the Indian cricketers ask for a little leeway when it comes to their quarantine conditions for next week’s Gabba Test match and ask for such ‘luxuries’ as a decent gym, use of the pool, room service and housekeeping, they’re treated like a bunch of spoilt, over-entitled whingers.
A photo of wicket keeper Rishabh Pant’s room in Sydney shows it crammed with equipment and uniforms with very little room to spare. The room is similar to what’s available to the team in Brisbane.
WAGs and other women within the AFL quarantine hub were spotted enjoying the sun in September
Alyssa Healy, star wicketkeeper with the women’s national team and wife of fast bowler Mitchell Starc, was among those who joined the pile-on, saying her side ‘survived’ a stay in the same hotel.
Australian golfer, Karrie Webb, also weighed in on the debate and sided with Healy: ‘Oh bless! Such a struggle for them! Every athlete in the world has had to deal with change during this time if they want to compete at their sport. Built in excuse maybe?’
‘Who do they think they are?’ the haters ask. ‘NBA stars?’
Well actually, in their own way, they are.
Ask a cricket fan in India who Dannii Minogue is and they’ll look at you blankly.
Ask them about Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and they’ll reel off his bowling figures, first-class average, strike rate, date of birth and favourite movie.
Ashwin, incidentally, is the player that our national captain Paine called an unpopular ‘d*ckhead’ during the third Test in Sydney.
Millions of Indian cricket followers around the world would no doubt disagree.
Buddy Franklin (second left with Swans teammates) is seen lapping up the amenities at the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort in Port Douglas in February
The luxury resort housing family and friends of AFL players was converted into an impenetrable fortress, complete with green mesh fences, security guards and warning signs to keep the public away
Players were furious when they arrived at the Sofitel in Brisbane on Tuesday ahead of the final Test match at the Gabba to find they had to clean their own toilets and make up their own rooms (pictured, players arriving at the hotel on Tuesday)
Not that Ashwin is the biggest name in the Indian side. Not by a long shot. That distinction goes to team captain Virat Kohli.
The highest paid cricketer in the world, with annual income estimated at around $34million, Kohli is a bona fide international superstar; the only cricketer to have merited a place on the Forbes Top 100 sporting earners, in company with the likes of Federer, Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and LeBron James.
Kohli has missed out on the current furore over the Indians’ dissatisfaction with Queensland’s quarantine restrictions, having headed home to New Delhi for the birth of his first child after the first Test, but if he had requested relaxed conditions – as the world’s top tennis players did before committing to this year’s Australian Open – would he not have been entitled to at least ask?
Certainly, the status he enjoys in his home country and with expat Indians around the world would suggest so.
Australians cannot comprehend just how big cricket is in in India unless they have been to the sub-continent and experienced it themselves.
I know I had no real idea until I covered the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.
The Indian cricket team have complained about their treatment in a Brisbane quarantine hotel where they have to clean their own rooms and cannot leave their floor (pictured Indian players arrive for a training session at the Sydney Cricket Ground)
Nice for some! Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk came under fire for giving the green light for 400 people to quarantine in the AFL hub
Prithvi Shaw of India is seen arriving at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane on Tuesday
While the Games were well attended in India’s second largest city, the interest of the majority of Indians was far more focussed on the Test cricket series being played against Australia elsewhere in the country at the same time.
Newspapers, TV talk shows and the public in the street seemed consumed by nothing else, but for me the crowning moment was when I walked into the men’s room of our four-star hotel to see a television set positioned above the urinal so that guests would not miss a moment of live coverage of the day’s play, no matter what they were doing.
And it wasn’t just the Indian players that the locals were obsessed with. My fellow Australian journalists and I only had to open our mouths and reveal our accents to be bombarded by facts, figures and opinions about the virtues, strengths and career highlights of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne.
Australians like to think they support their cricket team wholeheartedly, but I would venture that our number one fast bowler Pat Cummins could walk down the main street of Brisbane this week and not so much as raise an eyebrow.
If he did the same thing in Mumbai it would bring traffic to a standstill and the police would need to clear a path for him to get back to his hotel.
The likes of Kohli, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah and even ‘unpopular d*ckhead’ Ashwin wouldn’t even try to go out in public without some sort of crowd control, any more than their NBA counterparts would in the US.
Like the Indian cricketers, who are now holed up in a Brisbane hotel that one of the touring party has reportedly described as ‘a prison for all practical purposes’, the NBA players were also confined in a quarantine ‘bubble’ in order to complete their last season.
Girlfriends of AFL players are seen arriving on the Gold Coast to join their players in the quarantine hub on July 30 (pictured)
The conditions were different in the extreme. While the Indians initially feared they would have to make their own beds, clean the toilets and eat food from one local restaurant that would be left outside their doors – all conditions that have apparently been relaxed after the intervention of Indian authorities – they are still not be allowed to use the hotel swimming pool and only have access to one small common room for team meetings.
The 22 NBA teams, in contrast, took over the entire 10,000 hectare Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Housed in three luxury hotels, with their families joining them during the play-offs, the players were able to use the theme park – which was opened especially for them after hours – had the choice of three golf courses and could go on fishing and boating tips.
In addition barber shops were set up in each of the hotels with three barbers selected after a nation-wide search to ensure the players would not have to go without their ‘do’s during their time in isolation.
Indian players have complained they’ve been confined to their floor and can’t access the hotel gym or pool
The conditions ‘endured’ by AFL and NRL teams who were placed in bubbles at Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast resorts during their 2020 seasons weren’t quite as lavish, but in comparison to what the Indians are currently facing, they weren’t far off.
The New Zealand Warriors NRL team received enormous praise for spending five months away from their families in isolation at the NSW Central Coast last year.
Other teams, fans and officials all lauded their sacrifice, saying the season could not have proceeded without them.
The majority of the Indian cricket team have also been away from home and living in isolation for several months, with the IPL competition starting in Dubai in September.
They too have made sacrifices to enable a major sporting competition to go ahead but unlike the Warriors they are copping nothing but derision, and the Queensland government won’t even let them use a hotel swimming pool.
Maybe they should have come to town earlier, like the footballers – when the election was on.
Inside the extraordinary decision to put India’s cricket superstars in hotel quarantine without serviced rooms – after AFL stars were given the royal treatment in a special hub
By Zoe Zaczek for Daily Mail Australia
India’s superstar cricketers are suffering through a draconian hotel quarantine with rooms barely big enough to hold their equipment.
As they prepare for the crucial Brisbane test that will be watched by up to a billion fans across the globe, they have to clean their own toilets.
The conditions are in marked contrast to the luxury life of the quarantined AFL players, who got to sip cocktails by the pool and enjoy the company of their families ahead of the competition’s finals.
The India team is being forced to isolate in Queensland by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk because of the government’s declaration that Sydney is a ‘hotspot’.
This is despite the Indians having been in Australia since November and not recording a single Covid case, or even being near one.
AFL WAGs and officials are seen lounging by Mercure’s pool during their hotel quarantine on the Gold Coast in September
Cricketers arriving at the Sofitel in Brisbane on Tuesday complained of ‘prison-like’ conditions of being confined to the one floor, being deprived of room service and being refused entry to the pool and gym.
The squad – who are the only guests at the hotel and include some of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world – were not allowed to use the pool or access room service and were only fed from a local Indian restaurant.
Conditions only improved after India’s cricket board complained to Cricket Australia, which intervened – but players are still banned from the pool and outside.
The harsh quarantine restrictions the India squad have been subjected to are seemingly a world away from the AFL hub in Queensland last year.
When Melbourne went into lockdown in the middle of the season, Victorian teams decamped to Queensland where they played the rest of their ‘home’ games.
Birds eye video footage emerged in September, showing AFL officials and WAGs making the most of the luxury Mercure resort
Other teams from around Australia spent a month or so there, also in resort hubs, playing against Victorian and Queensland teams.
Then when Brisbane was chosen to host the Grand Final in October, about 400 AFL players and officials flew in at the beginning of September.
Ordinary Australians reacted with fury that they were given approval to dodge the state’s hard border and live up isolation in luxury while travellers returning from overseas couldn’t even open a window.
‘We are doing this quarantine the same as everyone else,’ AFL boss Gill McLachlan said at the time.
But images and video told a different story – with the officials and families chilling out at the four-and-half star Mercure Gold Coast resort.
Several players from Sydney Swans (midfielder forward James Bell, 21, is pictured behind club legend Brett Kirk) are seen on September 9 2020 making their way back to the Novotel resort after a morning recovery session down on the beach
Quarantine in luxury: A woman is spotted in her swimmers sitting on her hotel balcony in the AFL hub
Aerial footage – published by Nine News – showed WAGs relaxing by the swimming pool at the quarantine resort as children splashed in the water.
The wives and girlfriends soaked up the sun with drinks in hand, just a few steps away from the poolside bar.
The vision came as regular Australians desperately fought to enter Queensland.
At the time, the Queensland government deemed all of Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT to be coronavirus hotspots.
Travellers from hotspot states who were granted a border declaration pass were required to spend 14 days in mandatory hotel quarantine, at their own cost.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg accused the Queensland government of double standards.
The players arrived at the Sofitel in Brisbane on Tuesday ahead of the final Test match which will start at The Gabba on Friday (India player is pictured arriving at Brisbane Airport)
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was criticised for easing her strict border controls to welcome AFL officials and their loved ones from coronavirus-riddled Victoria
Mr Frydenberg said the football hub showed two sets of rules on borders given regular punters had missed out on vital medical treatment.
‘It’s just not on that a young woman can lose an unborn child because of confusion at the borders,’ he told the Nine Network in September.
‘At the same time, footy officials can go down to their hotel bar as they so-called quarantine in Queensland.
‘It seems double standards on our borders.’
The India cricket team had been reluctant to travel to Queensland’s capital for the series decider that begins at the Gabba on Friday, worried about what sort of biosecurity restrictions could be on the cards.
Queensland’s border is closed to travellers from Sydney because of Covid-19 cases, meaning Australia and India’s squads had to shuffle into hotel quarantine after their chartered flight touched down in Brisbane.
The state government has provided exemptions for players to train and play at the Gabba, and mingle in communal areas of the inner-city hotel that has been booked out entirely by CA.
The Test was only confirmed to be going ahead on Sunday – but after just one night in the Sofitel, players claimed it was like ‘prison for all practical purposes’.
Kangaroos star Ben Brown boards a flight with wife Hester and daughter Aila headed to the Gold Coast hub from Melbourne on July 6 (pictured)
Pictured: A woman rests her feet on the balcony from the AFL quarantine hub in September
‘We are locked up in our rooms, have to make our own beds, clean our own toilets. Food is coming from a nearby Indian restaurant which will be given to us on our floor. We can’t move out of the floor that’s been designated to us,’ a team source told the Times of India.
Players were also angry that the gym and pool were off limits and none of the restaurants or cafes in the hotel were open.
The source said the situation was ‘pathetic’ because no other guests were staying in the hotel.
‘What was promised, by way of facilities, and what’s being provided here are two diametrically opposite things,’ they said.
Fortunately for the players, Board of Control for Cricket in India officials were quick to step in and resolve the issues with Cricket Australia.
‘The board has been told that the team has been given access to all the lifts in the hotel. They can use a gym too. It has been assured that there will be room service and housekeeping,’ a senior BCCI official told the Times of India.
‘The team has also been given a team room where they can assemble and have meetings. Only the swimming pool is not open for use.’
The drama that threatened to derail the tour started weeks ago when the India players ‘spat the dummy’ at the thought of being forced into another tough quarantine period in Queensland.
Pictured: Security personnel man the Mercure resort on the Gold Coast while people mill around freely in the background
Players had already spent two weeks in quarantine when they arrived in Australia and had expected to be able to move freely across the country after that.
But Covid-19 outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne made Queensland put up its borders, forcing arrivals from those cities into hotel quarantine.
Officials earlier suggested the match be played in another city, such as staying in Sydney, to avoid the need for another stint locked in a hotel.
CA finally said on Monday that India’s touring party confirmed with them they were happy to play in Brisbane and agreed to the city’s quarantine protocols.
‘The fourth Test will be at the Gabba, as planned,’ interim CA chief executive Nick Hockley said on SEN Radio.
‘On the basis of yesterday’s discussions we are full steam ahead to play the fourth Test at the Gabba.’
A Queensland Health spokesperson said the precautions will allow the Test to go ahead safely at the Gabba and help protect Queenslanders and players.
‘These precautions for the fourth Test are consistent with the SCG and the MCG for the earlier Tests to reduce the risk of seeding Covid,’ the spokesperson said.
‘It is also comparable to those arranged for other sporting codes throughout 2020, but with increased precautions in light of the new UK strain detected in Greater Brisbane, and the ever-developing situation in Sydney.’
Mike Colman is one of Australia’s most respected sports commentators. His latest book, On Sport, is a collection of writing from his 30-year career.
Australia players are seen arriving at the Sofitel Hotel on Tuesday