Mahendra Singh Dhoni (left), captain of the Chennai Super Kings, and Virat Kohli, captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, at the toss ahead of the IPL 2021 match in Mumbai on April 25, 2021. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached catastrophic proportions in India. The public health infrastructure in the country of 1.4 billion people is close to breaking point: not enough hospital beds or testing facilities, and there’s a scramble for medicines and oxygen. Infections top 300,000 daily — the highest in any nation — and there are 1,500 deaths a day. The coronavirus is ravaging the country.

Amid such a grim scenario, there are biobubbles in Chennai, Mumbai and Ahmedabad to facilitate the conduct of the biggest cricket league in the world: the Indian Premier League. Never mind the deaths and devastation in the country, the Twenty20 show must go on. That’s what it means.

It’s like Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned. How can the Board of Control for Cricket in India keep the IPL going while the funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims are burning across the country? 

IPL matches are keeping people indoors, and that reduces the possibility of spreading the virus. This is one of the arguments put forward by the IPL backers. How can some people enjoy while others are burying their dead, and the rest of the country is battling to keep their loved ones alive? It’s so weird.

Why Ashwin quit IPL games?

Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin should be applauded for leaving the Delhi Capitals to be with his family in their hour of need. At least, he’s got his priorities right. This is not like last year when the cases in India were are at manageable levels.

The second wave of the coronavirus has been crippling India this year. There were signs of what was to come. Australia’s Josh Hazlewood decided against joining the Chennai Super Kings training camp, but that was looked upon as an aberration as most foreign players reported to their franchises.

The first sign of biobubble fatigue came when England’s Liam Livingstone flew home from the Rajasthan Royals. This week Andrew Tye returned to Australia citing COVID-19 concerns. Now Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa have left the Royal Challengers Bangalore for personal reasons, according to the franchise. That could be due to Australia’s ramped up quarantine regulations.

Time for an IPL pause

Whatever may be the reasons, the inescapable fact is the lingering threat of the coronavirus. When reports of deaths and misery abound, it’s difficult to focus on cricket. The Indian cricket board should show more empathy and awareness. Some warning messages on COVID-19 protocols by commentators or social media messages by the cricket stars will not soothe people struggling to stay alive or keep others alive.

April is the cruellest month in India. The country is in a health crisis, its people living in terror. Sport is not a matter of life and death. It’s entertainment, and that can wait. Perhaps IPL needs to pause. Time to take a break.