Coronavirus: A corridor of uncertainty for the IPL

Coronavirus: A corridor of uncertainty for the IPL

The 13th edition of the IPL is set to have a delayed start from April 15, 2020. Its advent may churn happiness for fans, but for the larger population, there is a sense of dread in the air, causing them to shiver like on a cold winter night.

“It was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

-- A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

How can an extravaganza take place during a pandemic? How can the glamour of entertainment prevail amidst the darkness of fear? 

One of the most pompous T20 leagues, the IPL is all glitz and glory, innovation and exuberance, entertainment and cricketing battles rolled into one. It heralds a season of festivity for cricket fans, who will dust off jerseys and trumpets, and once again fervently support their teams. The 13th edition of the IPL is set to have a delayed start from April 15, 2020. Its advent may churn happiness for fans, but for the larger population, there is a sense of dread in the air, causing them to shiver like on a cold winter night. A novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc, threatening humans with dire consequences. It goes by the name SARS-CoV-2 and causes the COVID-19 disease. It's a danger that has cast a deadly shadow over most of the world.

A 'bold' move

The IPL is going to be held in the middle of this pandemic. The BCCI's decision has come at a time when several tournaments and leagues in other sports have been postponed or cancelled. Football leagues like Serie A, La Liga and the EPL have been postponed. The postponements of Euro 2020, Copa America 2020 and the French Open and the uncertainty around the Tokyo Olympics further highlight the gravity of the present situation.

A logical move?

Is it logical to host the IPL in such a scenario? That has been the talk of the town for quite some time now. The murmurs have become louder as the number of positive cases has risen in India, with the number of COVID-19-affected people exceeding 200 at present. While the BCCI pushed back the start date from the previously scheduled March 29, with its president Sourav Ganguly assuring that precautions have been taken to protect the IPL, the question still lingers. 

COVID-19 is a contagious disease. If someone contracts the disease, the individual will have fever, cough, breathing difficulties, and if the condition aggravates, will develop pneumonia. Kidney failure can also happen, which could result in death. The World Health Organization has recommended maintaining proper hygiene and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of the disease. Large gatherings also need to be avoided to prevent the spread of the disease.

Empty stadiums?

An IPL match registers a minimum attendance of 25,000 people. At a time when authorities are advising people to avoid gatherings (even Holi was played in India with a sense of caution, something that is hard to imagine), the BCCI may opt for empty stadiums as a way for the IPL to go ahead. A crowded stadium increases the risk of contamination, jeopardising the health and immunity of thousands of people, not to forget the players and others associated with the game. If even a single person inside the stadium is infected with COVID-19, the disease can spread like wildfire. If that happens, the number of positive India cases will multiply exponentially, a tragedy that must be avoided at any cost. There's another side to this argument as well. 

The pomp and the glory

The IPL involves obscene amounts of money. The players, coaches, the team management - everyone on the field can walk away with pockets heavy and bank balances fattened. The huge revenue from the IPL has filled the BCCI's coffers over the years, making it the richest and most powerful cricketing organisation. Sitting at the top of the hierarchy like an almighty lord, it controls even the minute happenings in world cricket. Also, the IPL is a golden opportunity for players to shine, capture the attention of selectors and increase the intensity of knocks on the doors of national teams. Unlike the farmer in the fable, the BCCI is not so foolish as to kill its golden goose. 

If the event is cancelled, it can be said that a lot of people who are economically dependent on the IPL will suffer. Yes, livelihoods will suffer and the players who look to showcase their talents will miss out on the opportunity.

What is a tournament in the face of precious human lives? What is the value of piles of money in the face of an epidemic? What importance can glitz and glamour have in front of the grey, murky world of impending doom? 

It is the lives that matter. It is the sound of laughter and beating hearts that should be of the utmost importance. Tournaments like the IPL, despite their magnificence, can take a backseat at a time when mankind is struggling to survive. Such tournaments can be organised at any time with equal pomp and glamour. Even a single life that is lost, however, can only be mourned forever.