Just a week after Australia’s Adam Zampa left the Indian Premier League (IPL) by raising serious questions about the bio-bubble in India, two positive cases in the Kolkata Knight Riders camp led to the postponement of their clash with the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday.
Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier of the KKR had tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday before reports emerged that even the Chennai Super Kings bowling coach L Balaji returned with two RT-PCR positive results.
This is a serious blow to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) at a time when the world’s richest board has remained defiant, despite receiving flak for continuing the IPL amid a harrowing health crisis in India.
The deadly second wave of the coronavirus infections has brought India to its knees as scores of people are dying every day, with many of them losing their lives due to an acute shortage of life-saving equipment as hospitals have run out of beds and oxygen cylinders.
It’s against this backdrop of human tragedy that the BCCI is continuing its money-spinning carnival. But now that the infection has breached the bubble, will the powerful board be compelled to have a second thought?
“We are investigating how the infection happened but we have full confidence in the bio-bubble arrangements. It’s totally secure,” a BCCI member told Reuters, ruling out the possibility of a cancellation of the league.
But Vijay Lokapally, one of India’s most respected cricket writers, said these positive cases have dealt a big blow to the security of the players.
“The positive cases surely are a matter of grave concern. They involve the safety of the players. I am worried about the mental health of the cricketers because of the hardship that comes from living in a tough bio-bubble,” Lokapally, who has authored several cricket books, told Khaleej Times.
“I am sure the BCCI will take a call. Also, the ultimate step could come from the government if it feels continuation of the IPL could threaten the lives of the players and the support staff in case they get infected.”
Lokapally, though, offered a dispassionate response when asked if it was right to stage the IPL this year.
“The tournament was planned and launched much before the second wave hit India,” he said.
“In fact, it was a severe test for the BCCI which did a very decent job of staging the series against England, the Vijay Hazare trophy, the women's series against South Africa and the domestic women’s one-day tournament. There was not a case reported from the cricket activity.
“It is now looking bad because of the unprecedented situation in the country where people are dying in the absence of proper medical attention.
“But please remember the IPL, the BCCI and the players can't be held responsible for what is happening outside their world of cricket.”
But Sharda Ugra, one of India’s finest sports writers and a senior editor at ESPN Cricinfo, felt the presentation of the IPL amid a national crisis has been insensitive.
“In the way that the IPL has been presented, it’s been completely over the top, you know, at a time when the scenario in India is unfolding…this horrific health crisis. And to move the tournament to Delhi where the cases were going up was insensitive,” Ugra told Khaleej Times.
“The argument that the IPL people have had is that the tournament is bringing relief, it’s a distraction, and that it has generated employment and also that it’s keeping people off the streets (for those three-four hours), but people are in the streets trying to find oxygen for their loved ones. So it has been very, very badly presented.”
Ugra also said that it was shocking to see a tournament like the IPL when a record number of people lost their lives in the pandemic.
“They (BCCI) could have done it in a more appropriate manner because so many people are dying in India. You know India has not lost 200,000 people in a war in its history as an independent country,” she said.
“So, it’s absolutely shocking how they have gone ahead with it as if all these (deaths and sufferings) are happening in some other planet!”
By Rituraj Borkakoty
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