The Indian Premier League may have encountered a COVID-19 storm. Two players have been affected by the coronavirus and at least four teams may have been exposed. This is hardly surprising given the widespread transmission across the country.
Here’s the breakdown: Two Kolkata Knight Riders players have tested positive, and reports indicate that three members of the Chennai Super Kings contingent are also affected. Worse yet, the Delhi Cricket Council has confirmed that the five infected Kotla ground staff may have come into contact with players from the Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Thus, four of the eight teams are concerned.
Where does that leave the IPL? Will he take a break to eliminate any lingering doubts about casual and direct contact? Or should season 14 be scrapped?
It should have been abandoned when the COVID-19 situation in India got out of hand. How can cricketers continue to play biobubble safe when much of the country is suffering? Hundreds of thousands of people are out of breath, many more are struggling to get hospital beds, and the poor don’t even have a place to bury the dead. If that doesn’t shock you, nothing will. And playing sports in times of national crisis is a more serious tragedy. It just shows that we have lost our empathy, our humanity.
Consider this: When a flood or fire destroys a village or town, is it appropriate to hold a concert there? Or will you have a house party when your neighbor mourns the death of a loved one? There is no argument here.
So, is it okay to host a major sporting event when India is rocked by the biggest health crisis in history? IPL and its stakeholders say the games provide distraction and relief as the country and its people battle a pandemic. Some say that IPL provides employment for many people when their livelihoods are lost. That may be true, but as Australian cricketer Adam Zampa said: who will watch the games when a loved one is fighting to stay alive. Millions of families across India are battling COVID-19, and they don’t have time for IPL. Not even Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin or referee Nithin Menon.
A flaw in the biobubble
The IPL has passed halfway, with some teams playing eight of the 14 games. The question of expediency is therefore no longer applicable. Now the question is: Will they stop to take care of the players?
Recent statements from the Indian Cricket Council also affirm the belief that the tournament will continue. Additionally, a break may not be an option for stakeholders, especially since millions have been spent on it. But since four teams have been affected, it doesn’t make sense to take a break and assess the situation before continuing.
A break may not be possible since all foreign players must return home: some have commitments at home. And the International Cricket Council may not accept an extension of the IPL window. Especially since there is the T20 World Cup scheduled for later this year.
If a break isn’t possible, canceling Season 14 would be the prudent thing to do. Otherwise, we will have more reports of more players catching the virus. Should we get there?
Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier infections tell us that biobubbles are not as safe as we are led to believe. There is a loophole. Biobubbles are also very risky, especially when players are traveling. Every time a player leaves the bubble, the threat is magnified, as in the case of Chakravarthy.
This is a wake-up call for the Indian cricket board. The Council for the Control of Cricket in India should realize that there are issues beyond the sport. Matters of life and death.