IPL 2021 is in full swing despite the country registering an alarming 17.6 million COVID-19 cases. Cricket being the most popular sport in India, the IPL provides a blanket of comfort amid growing fear in such chaotic times.
In today's world, where people are waging a war for survival, it seems juvenile that players are still battling it out in sports to prove who's better. However, if anything, sports unites people. Cricket, forever a conversation-starter across the country, has managed to give us a reason to sit back, cheer and celebrate. It reassures us that normalcy hasn't completely vanished from the face of the earth.
The IPL has managed to work around the pandemic. Bio-bubbles, empty stadiums and strict health tests characterize every sport in 2021. Similar safety protocols have been employed to ensure the IPL takes place, for it simply cannot be pushed away.
Passion or ludicrousness?
Blend of both maybe. It's stating the obvious that Indians love their cricket. But it's sheer lunacy that players are risking their lives to play out there for three hours just to entertain their fans.
The reasons as to why a player would fancy a game during COVID-19 can be numerous. But that isn't the topic of discussion here. This is about cricket and how it manages to bring a smile even when things look in dire straits.
IPL 2021: The need for normalcy
The whole point of having this tournament, despite multiple player withdrawals and all the associated setbacks, stresses the need for the hour - normalcy.
Liam Livingstone returned to England citing bubble fatigue. Andrew Tye is headed back to Australia for personal reasons. And they were not the only players to have made such a call. Consequently, this edition of the IPL is starkly different from the previous ones. If the tournament does reach completion without a hitch, it will mark the success of an arduous attempt to restore some form of parity during a ravaging pandemic.
The biggest challenge during this IPL will be the safety of the players and the personnel. Perhaps they can take a leaf out of NFL 2020 - a tournament that concluded successfully despite the majority of the teams being hit by the virus. The Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, even allowed roughly 30,000 people to watch from the arena.
The NFL set a superhuman example of how to work around the problem. For that matter, even the NBA season did an equally impressive job in ensuring the safety of the players.
Although IPL 2020 was also conducted in the midst of the pandemic in the UAE, the situation is not nearly the same in India right now. Nevertheless, the safety of the athletes remains the primary concern.
The virus is here to stay. But scrubbing sports, or specifically the IPL in this case, is never the complete solution.
Life is hard in the middle of a pandemic. Every person requires a shot at earning their livelihood and sports is the source of bread and butter for athletes. And while most of us cater solely to our own needs through our profession, sportspeople entertain the entire world through theirs.
With an active IPL going on, the best thing that cricket fans can do is to just sit back and experience that entertainment, something that's sorely needed to beat the COVID-19 blues.