Is IPL more important than saving lives?

The much-awaited Indian Premier League is almost here, while the franchises have been given their guidelines, Free Press Journal, Mumbai along with ABP Network presented a debate, ‘Should the IPL go ahead this year,’ which evoked mixed reactions.

It was eight eminent people from different walks of life came together (online) and expressed their views on this cash-rich league.

It was Dr. Shashank Joshi who was against the league being conducted during this pandemic, and two of the three judges Poonam Dhillon and Dinkar Gupta IPS, DGP, Punjab Police stood by Dr. Joshi's view and agreed that this was not the time to go ahead.

Dhillon was bang on target while drawing the attention of Djokovic's exhibition tournament during which he tested positive of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

The IPL moves overseas for the third time and 13th edition goes to the United Arab Emirates in the month of September (19) onwards. But it still begs the question -- The coronavirus poses a threat to the world and with no vaccine for the virus as yet, should any of the countries take the responsibility of being the hosts?

The first round of debate ended with 'against the motion' speaker turning the tide in his favour.

Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of COVID-19 taskforce in Maharashtra Government, expressed his views against the motion - should IPL be held at all?

“As cricket is a congregation sport, there is a high risk of COVID-19 transmission”, said Joshi, adding that BCCI should have waited for six more months.

"If you feel cricket is a bigger priority than saving lives, God help you," said Joshi.

Among the panelists, Joshi was the only one against the motion. In support of IPL being held this year, former India cricketer and head coach of Zimbabwe national team, Lalchand Rajput believes IPL must be conducted in a safer environment. He said, "The UAE government must have precautions for the players."

Neeraj Kumar, former police commissioner of Delhi, said holding IPL will be a morale booster. While the sporting world has been on a long break, the "government is helping in returning to normal in phases," he said.

He further added that the mental state of players is being affected due to no cricket in play.

Kumar was struck with a question of betting on such anticipated sporting events. With a break in sports, betting events took the drain. But as they return, questions of betting events returning took surface. Speaking about the same, Kumar said, "IPL may attract betting but such people anyways look for reasons to bet."

Jatin Paranjpe, BCCI national selector, and a former Indian cricketer believes the board has made a calculated move regarding IPL 2020 being held in UAE. "IPL is a flagship brand. BCCI has balanced out financial and medical risk and has taken a calculated move. Building of a bubble is possible. It's a well-thought decision," he said.

Ashish Shelar, a BJP politician and former Sports Minister of Maharashtra, took the debate by force in support of IPL being held in UAE this year. Shelar believes sportsmen belong on the field. “With a massive break in cricket due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, IPL is needed for viewer entertainment”, said Shelar, adding that "many allied industries are also waiting."

Supporting the move, Shelar, who was also the president of the Mumbai Cricket Association, said the UAE government is ready to take the responsibility. He also believes that India will benefit if IPL is conducted this year despite the pandemic.

Shelar, a lawyer by profession, cited the example of small scale and film industries starting again. He believes that with proper safety norms and precautions, conducting the IPL is necessary.

However, Dr Joshi, the only person against the motion, was quick to counter all the aforementioned points. He cited the example of sports' biggest brand, Tokyo Olympics, which is postponed to 2021.

He even brought up the argument of Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bharat - a term announced by PM Modi during one of his speeches. Joshi believes if we want IPL, it should be held in India.

Joshi concluded his argument and said going ahead with IPL is a 'reckless and restless behaviour'.

Coming on to the jury members, Poonam Dhillon and Dinkar Gupta, the former questioned the panelists asking, "Who is taking responsibility of the players?"

Dhillon believes conducting IPL 2020 is commercially driven.

Gupta, on the other hand, agreed with Joshi. He believes we need to wait be careful as COVID-19 in India has still not reached its peak.

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Free Press Journal