Cricket at a time of crisis: Should the Indian T20 League be halted?
“Looking at it from an Indian point of view, how are these companies and franchises spending so much money, and the government, on the Indian T20 League when there’s people not being able to get accepted into hospital?” an astounded Andre Tye asked in an interview with PTI after leaving the bio-bubble on Sunday.
The 2021 Indian T20 League season stands at crossroads. On one hand, there’s BCCI which is reported to be adamant on finishing the ongoing tournament, then there are the players - the Australian contingent more vocal than the others - who seem to be showing signs of psychological distress by being in the bio-bubble life.
India is currently the world’s worst hotspot of COVID-19 cases and as a result, the Australian government is now considering tougher restrictions on flights coming from India. Perhaps expecting further restrictions, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson have joined their fellow countryman Andrew Tye in ending their Indian T20 League season prematurely.
Supreme Court’s Chief Justice SA Bobde recently characterized the ongoing crisis as a ‘national emergency’. The question to be asked at this time when the country is reeling from the lack of oxygen supply and hospital beds; is it even ethical to let a T20 tournament get to its conclusion? Although hit with less severity, Pakistan took the necessary step and postponed the Pakistan Super League in March 2021, with 20 matches due.
Voices have been raised, and Kolkata’s Pat Cummins has been the first to announce an individual contribution of $50,000 to the PM Cares Fund. Among the Indian players, Ravichandran Ashwin, who’s cited COVID concerns and backed out, Harbhajan Singh and Punjab coach Wasim Jaffer have been among the only ones who have reacted to the crisis.
Meanwhile, Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra recently wrote in his column for the Indian Express that the players should acknowledge the fact that they are even able to even play the sport right now.
He wrote that if he was the BCCI president, he would "give a large amount to do the vaccination right or help out in any other way. This is one way to acknowledge that to conduct the IPL right now is a huge privilege and everyone should act responsibly."
That said, one cannot overrule the fact that the Indian T20 League is providing entertainment, almost as an antidote, to millions amidst troubling times. It has been a welcome distraction for the masses, especially those quarantined.
The other side of it is the economy. From the stadium’s ground staff to the players and vendors, the League is impacting several stakeholders in its ecosystem. And unlike in the Road Safety World Series in Raipur which culminated in Sachin Tendulkar and Irfan Pathan showing COVID positive results, the bubble restrictions and the set-up is tighter.
Taking the step is not as easy as talking about it. The BCCI cannot cancel or pause the Indian T20 League as we speak because of multiple layers, stakeholders involved and of course, economics. But the question still remains; is this form of entertainment sensitive to a society that is literally grappling for life? A complicated battle is underway, between what should be done and what is being done. And ethically, there’s no clear winner here.
Featured photo: Twitter / IPL