COVID-19 is ravaging India but cricket’s most glamorous tournament soldiers on.
Men and women are lying on streets outside hospitals, struggling to breathe while waiting for oxygen tanks which may never come and bodies waiting to be burned remain in long queues at crematoriums.
Still, the show must go on in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
According to Health Ministry data from Saturday, India registered 346,786 new infections in just 24 hours. That figure is far greater than any country has recorded since the pandemic began, and takes India’s total cases to almost 16 million.
A relative of a COVID-19 victim pays his respect before a cremation.Source:AFP
Health workers stand around a patient waiting to get transferred to an intensive care unit.Source:AFP
While India grapples with this terrifying surge in cases, the cricket continues.
The IPL commenced a fortnight ago without crowds — when the country was already registering more than 100,000 new cases each day.
Players and staff have been confined in impermeable biosecurity bubbles, living conditions they have grown accustomed to over the past 10 months.
They fly between cities on chartered jets, aided at airports by locals in hazmat suits.
But the bubble’s reliability came into question when Australian all-rounder Daniel Sams tested positive to COVID-19 while serving hotel quarantine, along with Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate Devdutt Padikkal.
Despite the setbacks, the BCCI has opted not to postpone or abandon any matches. The financial losses would be monumental.
Four IPL teams are scheduled to play eight games this week in Delhi, a city that recorded 26,000 new cases on Thursday. Delhi & Districts Cricket Association president Rohan Jaitley told ESPNcricinfo there was no plan to shift the fixtures.
“The bubble is absolutely intact,” Jaitley said. “If I am not part of the bubble, I can’t meet anybody (inside it). It is absolutely safe.”
Now @BCCI can play a big role here Stadiums where there will no IPL match this year can be used for Isolation and treatment for Covid Patients… Every stadium has a big space where food stalls are permitted that area can be used for atleast 300-400 [email protected]#CovidIndia
Cricket stars live in luxury as India collapses
In Australia, sporting or recreational events are cancelled following a minor spike in community transmissions, but the BCCI are not as cautious.
Just last month, Ahmedabad’s newly-developed stadium hosted thousands of screaming fans for a Test match between India and England. Masks were not mandatory, while social distancing was almost non-existent.
The T20 tournament’s superstars are biding their time between games with leisure activities, gym sessions and video games.
Aussie batsmen David Warner and Steve Smith have shared clips on social media of their respective teams playing pool volleyball, while Chris Lynn and Kiwi quick Trent Boult posted some snaps of them surfing.
The New Zealander captioned an image: “Enjoying the ride.” Lynn wrote under a picture: “Winning the morning over here in Chennai.”
As pointed out by former England cricketer Isabelle Westbury, there’s something oddly dystopian about international cricketers raking in millions, while in the same state, hospitals don’t have the resources available to assist their dying patients.
“Utterly harrowing the Covid scene in India,” she tweeted. “Realise the benefit (and need) for sport (and has been same in UK); doesn’t make it any less dystopian contrasting the luxurious, tightly sealed IPL bubble with people dying of Covid on streets, unable to even get into hospital.”
Australian cricket legend Adam Gilchrist asked his Twitter followers whether it’s “inappropriate” for the IPL to continue, or if the tournament provides an “important distraction each night”.
“Whatever your thoughts, prayers are with you,” he tweeted.
Trent Boult and Chris Lynn.Source:Instagram
Steve Smith and David Warner in their hotel.Source:Instagram
Pat Cummins relaxes while Dwayne Bravo enjoys a spot of basketball.Source:Instagram
IPL’s silence is deafening
Broadcaster and presenter Raunak Kapoor says the silence from the IPL about the situation unfolding outside of their bio-secure bubbles is deafening.
“If they tweet on the situation, they acknowledge the crisis. If they acknowledge the crisis, they acknowledge the government’s failure. If they acknowledge the government’s failure, they think they’ll get into trouble. Therefore, #IndiaTogether, in deafening silence #IPL2021,” Kapoor tweeted.
“There are exceptions. Ashwin, Jaffer, Harbhajan. I hope there will be more in days to come. The problem is not the IPL. It’s just the lack of acknowledgment.
“I don’t blame the IPL. If anything the tournament got lucky with everything being in place before things got alarmingly worse. And cancelling it does nothing. Just acknowledge & empathise with the people. They’re people. Not just a target audience.
“Sport is a platform. One that reaches people. If the people are suffering, or in pain, reach out to them. Show them you care. Show the people of India that the sport & its icons care about them. Of course you can do more, but this is the very least.”
As Kapoor mentioned, Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has spoken out, using his social media following to share and retweet calls for help, primarily from locals searching for plasma donations.
Calling out for an A + plasma donor in Mumbai (Kalyan) https://t.co/pbd9RaEV75
Enjoying live sport from the safety of home does benefit some, but the IPL’s broadcast only shows so much. While Indian legend MS Dhoni was smacking boundaries against the Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday, his parents were both in hospital battling COVID-19.
“It’s a shame with the situation at the moment with the people all around the world having to deal with COVID, which isn’t ideal,” English paceman Chris Woakes said this week.
“Within the bubble, we are trying to stay positive. We are very lucky that we still get a chance to play cricket and entertain people on the outside.”
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