IPL 2021: 10 Minutes Away From Leaving the Bubble, Paul Reiffel’s Plan to Fly Out Was Thwarted

Former Australian fast bowler and now one of the most respected of the elite ICC umpires, Paul Reiffel had a narrow escape almost getting himself into trouble in a bid to return home mid-way into the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021. Barely a few minutes away from leaving the bio-secure bubble on Wednesday, Reiffel learnt that his passage out of India had been blocked. He will now officiate in the rest of the tournament before flying out with the remainder of the Australian contingent.

Reiffel had decided to leave the IPL early and fly back home to Australia concerned about the rising Covid-19 cases in India and being stranded in the nation. He had arranged to travel to Sydney via Doha – a similar option was used by Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa just a few days earlier.

“I tried to, but the flight through Doha, I wasn’t able to go through as an Australian. They shut the avenue off. I know a couple of the guys got back that way through there, but the avenue was closed so I had to stay. Yesterday I was booked to go, but it got cancelled. I thought I’d take the opportunity when I could, because you don’t know what’s going to happen later on,” stated Reiffel from his hotel in Ahmedabad.

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Reiffel was lucky that he did not leave the protected environment of the bio-bubble before a change in his travel plans. That would have meant him going into quarantine to be able to officiate again in the remainder of the tournament.

“I was 10 minutes away from leaving the bubble, so I’m very lucky,” Reiffel said.

The Australian understood the risks he took when he accepted the BCCI’s offer of umpiring in the IPL even as cases surged in India. Reiffel stated that opportunities of work were far and few between due to the pandemic and it was difficult to refuse a lucrative offer such as the IPL.

“It’s how I make a living. In these COVID times I haven’t umpired a lot so any opportunity to get some work, you take it. You know any travel can end up any which way. It’s how I make a living. To knock back work, you just can’t afford to. You have to look at everything and try and weigh it up. When I accepted and it all started, it was a very different landscape. It escalated pretty quickly but that’s what happens with COVID. It happens quickly and a lot of the times you can’t see it happening.”

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Reiffel added that the experience this time around in India was very different in comparison to any of the seasons before. He said there was an unusual and uneasy quiet eclipsing the length and breadth of the nation currently.

“It’s a whole lot more quiet than usual, it’s a bit unusual for India. There’s still people about but it’s very quiet, there’s a lot of people at home. It’s hard to tell what life’s like. It’s just the hotel and cricket.”

He added that given the relevance of cricket and the emotional attachment millions of Indians had with the game, it was a tough call whether to suspend the most popular T20 league in the world in these troubled times or not.

“I have read a lot of people have different opinions but cricket in India is such a massive thing. For it to be suspended would be such a massive thing to do over here. They’re keeping it going – a lot of people are enjoying it,” quoted Reiffel.​

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