Exactly 12 days ago on March 7, Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium had been hosting the ‘Legends’ of cricket. The fans inside the stadium gelled together without masks, paying no heed to COVID-19 under the desperation to get a glimpse of their favourite cricketers. Such was the intensity and passion on display for the Road Safety World Series match that when I peeped at the stands from the media centre, every seat of it seemed to be occupied.
While reporting on the presence of maestros like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Brian Lara was a joy, more significantly, it were the daredevils in the stands that caught more attention; then, the city had just been gripped by the unrest surrounding coronavirus, now a pandemic.
Cut to this day, cricket globally has come to its knees – the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) head office in the city remains shut, Mumbai Cricket Association has closed doors, while even the iconic Azad Maidan looks unusually vacant. The Wankhede, now, is dead silent.
-- Response is still casual --
It took a while for all the cricket bodies to adjust to the new reality where fears took shape, which led to a slower response than usual to this unimaginable scenario.Despite the global chaos, India went on to host the South Africans for a three-match ODI series. And by the time BCCI called off the tour, Proteas were left with no option but map a long journey through the virus trap – from Delhi to Kolkata and then to South Africa via Dubai, roughly a three-day long journey.
One by one, all of international cricket matcheshas now come to a halt. But still, the thirst for minting money through these cash-rich international leagues remains unquenched.
While the Pakistan Super League was called off only after one of its foreign recruits, Alex Hales showed symptoms on Tuesday – on the other hand – the BCCI is still dragging its feet to call off the Indian Premiere League.The virus has globally infected more than 1,68,000 people and killed at least 6,610, according to the figures provided by the World Health Organisation.
Yet, the IPL owners are adamant that the ‘show must go on’, and how! One of the owners told IANS: “If we get a clearance from the government and visas are issued, then quarantining (foreign) players shouldn't be a big deal.”Perhaps, the owners don’t seem to have learnt from the recent case of Alex Hales, and that of New Zealand’s Lockie Ferguson and Australia’s Kane Richardson, who were briefly isolated and tested due to the virus.Why is that the case?
-- Economic gains --
If the IPL is suspended, BCCI will have to reportedly bear a loss of Rs 3,869.5 crore.
Furthermore, the world’s richest cricket body seems to have shot themselves in the foot as they cut short the IPL prize money, then supposedly unaware of corona aftermath. Thus now, the franchises expect BCCI to deliver the lucrative IPL, regardless of the consequences.
Every aspect associated with IPL will be economically hit. Star Sports has brought the rights for Rs 16,347 crores for a period of five years, and their advertising revenues will take a huge hit.
Similar will be the consequences if T20 World Cup scheduled later this year is suspended. Not just for host nation Australia -- which relies heavily on sports for economical gains -- worrying signs are also ahead for the global body ICC.
Summing it up, the game of cricket has taken the back seat, from where it could only wait, watch, and speculate.