Since the start of its 14th edition on April 9, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has turned its back on the state of helplessness and gloom into which the country has fallen. On the one hand, millions of people are fighting a losing battle against the virus and millions more live in perpetual fear of losing a loved one; on the other, a group of people were in hyper-celebration mode as if they resided in a parallel world with little idea of external suffering.
For a sports association that prides itself on having the largest fan base and leverages it to earn billions through media rights, BCCI’s insensitivity to people’s plight has been beyond imagination. During the first two weeks of the tournament, players, officials and commentators did not even recognize the pandemic situation in the country. It was business as usual until the backlash started hitting them from all corners, forcing some sort of recognition and message.
On Tuesday, the BCCI was forced to “postpone the IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect” following several positive cases of Covid-19 in franchises over the past two days.
This shouldn’t shock anyone. The way the Covid-19 virus ravaged the whole country, it was only a matter of time before it stung the bio-secure bubble that BCCI had created for all players and officials. How long can you isolate yourself from the monumental chaos unfolding outside your doors?
There was more than enough criticism of the IPL with crowd-boosted artificial surround sound, filmed beats, fan walls, relentless sponsor mentions, and loud, festive commentary. Empathy for people was notable for its absence.
The plan to provide jobs for hundreds of people and put money in the accounts of some domestic players who would otherwise struggle to make ends meet; that it helps keep people home and relieve them of anxiety caused by the gloom around it doesn’t sound convincing when you can’t (or can’t) empathize with the people who are in pain . You don’t take a wedding procession past a house in mourning, do you?
More than 2.2 lakh Indians lost their lives due to Covid-19 on Tuesday (according to numerous testimonies, this is far less than the actual figures). Another 2 crore suffers from the virus. How do you expect people to benefit from IPL when their mornings begin with sending condolences and days spent inquiring about the availability of hospital beds?
The IPL fought in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year without too many problems. He could have stood there again this year. Against more than 3.5 lakh of daily cases reported in India on Monday, the United Arab Emirates recorded just over 1,700. For unfathomable reasons, the powers that be have chosen to host the tournament in India. As in the UAE last year, there are also no spectators in the stadiums this year. When it comes to a TV-only event, how important is where it is played? Was it an oversight, a gamble, or an attempt to earn political brownie points?
The only difference from last year was the number of sites – increased from three in the United Arab Emirates to six in India (Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Bengaluru). If anything, there was a lesson that fewer sites make it easier to manage bio-bubbles and keep everyone involved safe. They could learn from the Indian Super League (ISL) which has played its entire season in Goa. What were the compulsions to make it a multi-city extravaganza?
Some may argue that India’s Covid burden was steadily decreasing when the decision was made, and no one could imagine the situation would explode the way it did. Should this be the case, the BCCI urgently needs better people in decision-making positions who can arrange for all kinds of possible scenarios.
One of the biggest lessons of the past year has been to make short-term plans. The circumstances of a pandemic change very quickly and you need to have plans B and C ready.
There were clear indicators of a peak in Covid-19 cases as early as mid-March, when the 2021 IPL was still more than 20 days away from its inaugural match. Is the BCCI so inept that it did not think of keeping a place of reserve to report an emergency, even if it was unforeseen?
India just saw high-stakes elections in five states (!) Where political parties mobilized millions for their rallies to show their strength and support – perhaps one of the biggest direct / indirect contributors in the large number of cases where Covid- The second wave of the 19s broke out. Imagine a situation where the BCCI pulls the IPL out of the country due to the huge number of Covid-19 cases, but political parties, especially ruling parties, do not show the same restraint when they are elected . campaigns. Was the IPL organized in India so as not to show its political masters in a bad light?
Whether BCCI was driven by commerce or was part of a larger narrative-building exercise to paint the situation as normal, the bubble it created burst in its face. Fortunately, the BCCI were not so deaf to the speaking situation within the league and made the logical choice to suspend the game.