IPL must be called off before players, others start losing lives to corona

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

Shocking news has come in today that two players of Kolkata Knight Riders and three non playing members of Chennai Super Kings including bowling Coach Lakshmipathy Balaji and a bus cleaner have tested positive for Coronavirus. This development has shattered the theory that the bio bubble is highly secure and all the people inside are completely safe.

With this incident, the IPL tournament has been plunged into a crisis. Now it remains to be seen how the administrators of the game will deal with this emergency situation. The BCCI also clarified that all other players have tested negative. But now a question mark has arisen against the soundness of the argument that everything is under control.

In an official statement the BCCI has confirmed that KKR players Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier have tested positive in the third round of testing. The BCCI also confirmed that the game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore has been rescheduled. The affected persons will have to stay in their rooms for a stipulated number of days under quarantine as per the protocol.

The KKR versus RCB match was to take place in Ahmedabad which is one of the cities that have been badly hit by the dreaded virus. Statistics reveal a grim picture. If we take just the period of the IPL, beginning with the first match in Ahmedabad, a total of 70,602 people have been affected in the city. Out of these 834 have lost their lives.

But the BCCI clearly wants the programme to continue. Too much has been invested in this tournament for it to be brought to a halt. But how far can it be taken before wiser counsel prevails?

Is money and sponsorship more important than human lives? Why should the BCCI take a risk with the lives of young players?

And should not the Government of India intervene and stop the game? Does it want to add to the accusations piling up against it owing the permission granted to hold Kumbh Mela and massive election meetings?

This second wave of the virus has taken a heavy toll of lives. This time even the young men and women are not being spared. Many children have lost a mother or a father or both parents. The Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently issued a warning that young people should not think that they are invincible.

And it must be kept in mind that the IPL show involves not only young players. There are also older people like support staff involved. There are groundsmen, bus drivers and cleaners, and those who look after the stadium premises. These people may not be as fit and healthy as the players. Some of them may be highly susceptible to COVID and they may even have comorbidities.

To press ahead with a sport under these trying and risky circumstances is nothing short of heartless apathy. The fact that a huge amount of finance and investment has been made, is not enough reason for such a grave risk to be taken. If a human life is lost, no amount of money can bring it back.

All citizens of India are struggling under the burden of coping with the virus. Many of us have lost relatives and in some cases even family members. We all know friends and colleagues who have contacted the virus. The lucky ones have recovered and the unlucky ones have departed forever. Some of us are working from home. Our children’s studies have been disrupted. So why is cricket still going on?

It may be recalled that several players have left the IPL earlier.
They include Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Ben Stokes, Ravichandran Ashwin and Kane Richardson and two umpires as well. Australian player  Adam Zampa had stated that he felt “vulnerable” in the bio bubble in India. Now it looks like he was right. Later however he issued a clarification of his original statement probably because of pressure.

So the question arises: How much is enough? What will it take to stop the cricket circus? The loss of a life or two? Or not even that? If the matter spirals out of control the BCCI will have to answer. It is not only the BCCI’s competency that will be under the scanner but India’s image as a country where it is safe to organise big sports events, will also be in ruins. It is not too late yet. The BCCI must choose between human lives and filthy lucre and if it still has the ability to think logically, it must choose the former.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.