Sporting greats welcome resumption

Sporting greats welcome resumption

Clocwise (from top right) Cue sports ace Pankaj Advani, badminton great P Gopichand, footballing hero Sunil Chhetri and cricket legend Rahul Dravid during the Deccan Herald webinar series DH Sparks moderated by Charu Sharma.

In an engaging session on ‘Sports in the time of Covid-19’, the panellists on the fourth edition of DH Sparks, the Deccan Herald webinar series, unanimously opined that sporting world should come to terms with the new normal of games without fans till a solution is found.

Former India cricket team skipper and NCA head Rahul Dravid, national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri and multiple world billiards champion Pankaj Advani felt that it was important for sporting activities to get going. The quartet, however, didn’t overlook the challenges of conducting sporting events, especially in India.

“It was fantastic to watch live cricket,” said Dravid on the just-concluded three-match Test series between England and the West Indies.

“Of course fans are a big part of why we play sports. But to be honest, in times like these, this is the way (without spectators) to go about. I think they (England and Wales Cricket Board) did a great job of creating a bio-secure environment. At the international level, they will be able to create the bio-bubble but my worry is about domestic and junior cricket. I don’t think it will be easy,” Dravid felt.

Chhetri, while admitting that he was skeptical when the international leagues began, was happy to see how they managed to pull off without problems. “Of course it was weird to see no fans in the stadiums. But it was great to see live football on television. Can we replicate this in India? That decision must come from the government. Only then can we have such a plan for a tournament like ISL,” he offered.

Echoing Chhetri’s thoughts, Advani said the government and national federation must think about televising cue sports and holding it behind closed doors.

In the Indian context, the first big tournament to be held in the time of the Covid-19 is the Indian Premier League albeit outside the country. Dravid backed the BCCI’s in India’s decision to go ahead with the tournament in UAE.

“When we talk about IPL, the first reaction is that the players, franchises, and BCCI are making money. Certainly they are but where is the money going? A lot of money rides on these big tournaments but the BCCI will put that revenue on state associations and domestic tournaments. So if you want to fund junior cricket and give an opportunity for youngsters the money has to come from somewhere,” explained Dravid.

Dravid added that the real headache for Indian cricket will be during October. “That’s when we will see the real impact of the virus because that’s when our domestic season begins,” he said.

Gopichand hoped the government decides to allow the reopening of badminton academies. “If malls and pubs can open then I think sports should open too. While the rest of the world has started practicing, we haven’t,” he said.  

The forced lengthy break has its advantages, pointed out Chhetri. “During our busy calendar, we don’t focus on our body. Many niggles get neglected. I am sure when players return, they are going to be extremely fit. It’s the tactical aspect we need to worry about because we haven’t played as a team for a while.”

Advani focused on the mental aspect. “During this time, it is important for all of us to introspect and learn to be calm. We definitely needed this break.”