Time was when it used to be difficult to find a spot for play on any given day, considering that every inch of the Oval Maidan was occupied, but ever since the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, Mumbai sports has come to a standstill.
“It is sad but we have to abide by the advisory, or else...," said Yogesh Pawar, a regular at the Oval, talking to The Free Press Journal on Monday.
“No matter what the day is, this Oval is buzzing with activity. It is pathetic to see the entire ground empty, with not a single kid on the ground,” added Pawar.
“Never in 70 years have I seen this ground look like it does today,” said senior citizen Joaquim Gomes, as he walked across the Oval to the High Court.
No can can help it, it is a very pathetic sight as the maidans are barren and that is sending shocking waves about this COVID-19. It is frightening. But will have to bear with it,” said Al Barkaat High School cricket coach Nafees Khan. “Hopefully things should be fine in another couple of weeks and we will see children back on the field,” added the coach.
Budding cricketers kicking up a mini dust storm in the middle of the city’s iconic Azad Maidan, unfazed by the blazing sun, must now be relegated to memory for a while, as these otherwise indefatigable kids, who make their way from the outskirts of Mumbai are all taking a break. However, the Azad, Oval and Cross Maidans and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Park - Mumbai's 'oases', must rest content with being barren for now.
These oases once used to be one single stretch of open space, called the Esplanade in the mid-1800s, stretching from Lohar Chawl (present-day Crawford Market) to beyond Cooperage. Always bustling with activity, these maidans have now fallen silent. Some of the best cricketers have played in these maidans, honing their craft in tough conditions and hard pitches, keeping an eye on the ball, and knowing fully well that those coming in late would have to patiently await their turn.
But for now, the maidans are taking a forced breather. Coronavirus has taken them by storm.