Covid-19 Pandemic has turned the world upside down. It appears that we are past the city, state, national lockdowns. It is now morphing into international lockdown. Thomas Friedman picked upon the Nandan Nilekani theme of World is Flat, with a New York Times best seller, when he said “Digital revolution has flattened the world with its transnational connectivity”. That was then in 2004. He was ashamed that he got it all wrong literally, as he had crowed too early and before Face Book, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram times, in his Thank You for Being Late. The world is not merely interconnected now, it is interdependent.
The spread of Coronavirus from Wuhan, Hubei province of China, since Nov, 2017 has made mincemeat of the international borders. If Donald Trump, @POTUS was a ‘scared man today’ as Wall Street Journal (from Rupert Murdoch stable and surely not a Never Trumper), there must be something radically wrong, happening in our midst. Trump was not an incorrigible optimist. He was a bluster, never believed in science or facts and for his unflinching base, he is a cult leader. If such a narcissist as Trump, is now listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci, his 80 year old, member of Coronavirus Task Force, and a world renowned infectious disease expert, and White House orders Pentagon to purchase 1 lakh body bags, the world must take note.
As for the sporting arena 2020 Tokyo Olympics stand postponed to July 23rd of 2021. International Olympic Committee paid heed to the public upheaval. Now, it has been followed by the decision of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, popularly known as Wimbledon Championships, in 2020, being ‘cancelled’. Not postponed. But simply cancelled, which has happened, for the first time, since World War-II in 1939-45. In the US of A, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, from the epicentre now, has bemoaned that the “flattening of the curve is not happening any time soon and deaths may continue through July, 2020”. Naturally National Basketball Association (NBA), which has universal eyeballs devoted to it, is gone for now. No sporting activity is on now, almost anywhere in the world.
What of India, where cricket is religion. Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has merely “postponed the IPL 2020 to commence from 15th April, 2020”. Of course, the South African tour in India was aborted before it began or just began. But no cancellation of abandonment of India Paise League. It is still on pause. Why? Why?
It discloses the moolah mindset of our cricket officianados. They want to be on pause mode, till the eleventh hour. They cannot bring themselves to cancelling it as yet. They are still hoping against hope-like Trump behaved a couple of weeks ago- that “It will miraculously be washed away as sun shines bright”. Trump has now pivoted not sheepishly, and even if shamelessly, for the science of the viral spread in the numbers are overwhelming. Even in India, the Tablighi Jamath conference where Indonesians and representatives from almost every other State attended, and many have turned positive, is in the news front and centre. Central and State administrations are on military mode to pick up the ‘escapees’ even as calls have gone out to them to present themselves for Testing. The attendees are being literally hounded for their own sake and society as well. It is that bad and serious.
But BCCI is not budging yet. We have two weeks to go for the 21 day national lockdown to cease. 15th April may just be that date. Who knows IPL league may miraculously be played? Far too much money is riding on it for cricket administration and franchisees and of course the performers, because it includes players and cheerleaders et al. Who knows? Maybe BCCI is contemplating to conduct IPL 2020 on the moon, for a change. They can afford to!
BCCI is still waiting to make that critical call. They would rather try and hold it in the summer months as they ‘may not get a comfortable window in the fixed cricket calendar’. Very touching concern in these pandemic times! Let BCCI be told by the Central Government in clear and unequivocal terms. No IPL 2020. Cancel it. Abandon it. Whatever the terminology. Go to 2021 as the next possible timeline.
India cannot imagine the conduct of IPL 2020 in 2020 for sure. The environment is too dicey. Even if there was one positive entity moving around among the teeming millions of fans, anywhere in India, the exponential viral spread would be unimaginable. IPL 2020 must be forgotten. One sincerely and fervently hopes that the Central and State administrations are not eyeing the tax collections or IPL 2020 as an economic trigger, for a spending spree, after this lockdown phase. That would be a tragedy worse than IPL managers, not cancelling the league on their own.
Cricket is religion in India. It moves the masses and it is like nothing else does it can. But that is exactly the very reason for which IPL 2020 must be a goner. That would be one poison potion in these viral climes, we simply cannot even imagine infecting us, as we celebrate IPL 2020. Time BCCI took a strong call in favour of We The People who make the game what it is, and cancel IPL 2020 here and now, in public interest and welfare. Money matters. Yes. But lives matter more.
(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan- Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)