Phillips still stuck in Australia
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Left-hander Omar Phillips
Left-hander Omar Phillips

(CMC) – Barbados and West Indies left-hander Omar Phillips has been forced to wait even longer before he can return home, after the Australian state of Victoria extended its state of emergency for another four weeks, in response to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Australia closed its borders last month to mitigate against rising cases of the virus and while the travel ban does not apply to international departures, several airlines have grounded flights until May-June, leaving hundreds of travellers stranded.

Based in Melbourne where he has been playing for Stratmore Cricket Club, the 33-year-old Phillips was scheduled to return home on April 12 but as tension heightened amidst the outbreak, he re-booked his ticket for March 23.

However, that flight was subsequently cancelled and attempts to secure a flight for the following day also proved futile.

Perhaps the biggest blow to his chances of leaving Australia came earlier this week when Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, extended its shutdown for another four weeks until May 11.

“Every day it’s something new so I’ve just got to play by ear at the moment. I’m just waiting on word on when they will start back flights,” Phillips said.

“(The club) has been great, (they’ve been) fantastic. It’s a good family club and everyone’s been chipping in and trying to make sure I’m as comfortable as possible because it’s not easy being away especially in this time.

“For me, I have to give them top marks because before they realised how serious it was, they had certain measures in place to make sure I was comfortable and they made a promise to my Mom that they would look after me so I really have to tip my hat to them.”

Phillips, an opener, played two Tests for West Indies as part of a second-string team during the tumultuous players’ strike of 2009, when Bangladesh toured West Indies.

He narrowly missed out on joining an illustrious club of batsmen with centuries on debut when he perished for 94 in the first innings at Arnos Vale in Kingstown.

Overall, he has played 57 first-class matches and scored a single hundred but has not featured in the domestic championship in nearly two years.

Phillips said he was trying to make the best use of the time while the city remained under the state of emergency.

“I’ve been on a couple bike rides out just to get some exercise. The gym I was in do the online fitness courses so it’s been good,” he explained.

“Staying indoors can be mentally challenging especially for someone who is not accustomed to being locked indoors all day.”

Australia has already recorded nearly 6 500 infections and 63 deaths. Victoria, meanwhile, has reported 1 291 infections and 14 deaths, and Premier Daniel Andrews said he had not yet ruled out extending the curfew “well beyond” the May 11 date.

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