Opinion: The BCCI needs to take the coronavirus epidemic seriously
- Is cricket really that much more important than the safety of the spectators?
No, this has nothing to do with the coveted No. 4 slot or whether the wicket-keeper position should go to someone purely on the merit of whether they can score more runs or not. This has nothing to do with hiring batting coaches so that India won't collapse on pitches with the slightest trace of swing. This doesn't even having anything to do with who will be India's long-term opening partnership.
No, this is about something larger than all of that.
By the time you are reading this, South Africa will have begun their first match of their ODI tour of India, a 3-match series spanning just under a week and entertaining crowds in Dharamsala, Lucknow, and Kolkata.
It goes without saying that an ODI game in India is a crowd puller. Add that to the fact that India is coming fresh off the drubbing at the hands of the Kiwis and this being their chance for a comeback, the series is going to be a hit at the box-office. Dharamsala has a 23,000 crowd capacity, while Lucknow steps up the game with a 50,000 holding capacity and Eden Gardens goes even further with 63,000 seats.
Any other time of the year this would be fine. An interesting series on the cards - a fan-favourite opposition, coming off the back of a 3-0 win against the Aussies; a chance for the players to get some much needed practice under their belts before the IPL kicks off; it's all fun. But now? On March 12, 2020 after everything that has happened around the world?
At the time of writing, Italy has suspended Serie A until April 3, and seeing as how a player from Juventus has been tested positive for COVID-19, chances are high that it will go beyond that date. The NBA has supended its season after one of the players also tested positive. UEFA is considering suspending the Champions League and Europa league after the round of 16 games are done. Everywhere else in Europe, the football leagues are going on in empty stadiums.
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Even the Olympics and the 2020 Euros are entertaining talks of postponement. But here, in a country with the second largest population in the world and not nearly enough screening and safety measures as compared to the countries that are facing the brunt of this pandemic, we are perfectly fine with doing nothing. In fact, actively encouraging people in large numbers to throng stadiums.
If you thought this 3-match farce was bad, remember that the IPL kicks off on March 29, which will see packed stadiums at almost every game held across the length and breadth of the country. So far, the BCCI has made no announcements regarding either the suspension of the tournament or even a postponement. They have only come out with a dos and don't for the players, staff and management. But things can change.
Cricket has turned into a monster in this country that cannot stop making money for its makers even if they try. But under the face of such a crisis, isn't it the least bit ethical or moral to take into consideration the well-being of the general public who help finance it?
Elsewhere, German Chancellor Angela Merkel estimates that upto 70% of her country's population is likely to be infected with the virus. Worldwide estimates reveal that its fatality is at 2-3% and most probable deaths are in age groups above 60. Factor in those numbers for the Indian population, and even low-balling the numbers presents an alarming sight.
It is true that the match-going crowd is mostly youngsters who have the necessary immune power to escape the disease. But the bigger issue is of them being sources of the infection and transmitting it to the elderly and the immuno-suppressed part of the population; thereby over-loading the health workers with a barrage of new cases.
All of this is scary to read, hear, and talk about. But the facts are staring us straight in our faces and the more we try to not look at them, the more we are doing a disservice to the humanity. It is high time the BCCI steps up to the plate and suspend all cricketing activities across the country, even if it means taking a financial hit.
How many lives are okay to be lost if it means we get a day of good cricketing fun? This is a question that should not be answered, a question that should not even be pondered.
On rare occasions, there is a moral absolute. This is it. If at all sense prevails, we will hear from the BCCI soon. Else, history remembers.
Oh, and wash your hands.
#Note: This story will be updated as the story develops going forwardPublished 12 Mar 2020, 14:48 IST