“If you think cricket is a bigger priority than saving lives, God help you,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the Covid-19 task force, government of Maharashtra, summing up the ‘Should we go ahead with the Indian Premier League this year?'
The Bombay Debate, presented by The Free Press Journal along with the ABP Network, and supported by knowledge partner MogaE and media group Outdoor Partner Laqshya, created a flutter online on Friday. While the Board of Control for Cricket in India was busy drafting a 240-page Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League amid the coronavirus pandemic in the UAE, a group of eight eminent people from various walks of life had virtually gathered from across the country, to debate the subject.
Dr Joshi articulately put across the argument that the IPL could have waited for some more time. He argued that if there were any league in India that could withstand the Covid onslaught on its coffers, it was the IPL. He was facing four panellists, including prominent cricketers Lalchand Rajput and Jatin Paranjape, who were all for going ahead with the cash-rich league.
An alumnus of the St Stanislaus High School in Bandra, Dr Joshi said that since it was a team game, there was high risk and felt that the event could have waited for a couple more months.
Former cricketers Lalchand Rajput, Jatin Paranjape, BJP MLA Ashish Shelar and former Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, besides the jury, comprising actors Poonam Dhillon and DGP Punjab Police, Dinkar Gupta, and the vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, Professor Alok Rai, participated in the first-ever Bombay Debate on the IPL.
Former top cop Neeraj Kumar endorsed the move. However, Kumar, who had investigated the 2013 IPL spot-fixing controversy, was of the opinion that there was a good chance that anti-social elements indulging in betting and fixing could be at large.
Dhillon and Gupta supported Dr Joshi while Prof Rai balanced the debate by supporting and going against. The trio were the jurists.
Dhillon made a valid point referencing star tennis player Novak Djokovic’s charity tournament, at which there was a rash of Covid-19 cases and asked the panellists who would take the responsibility, if, ‘god forbid, positive Covid cases were to pop up' due to the IPL, but there was no answer.