It is indeed shocking that there were a few who were hopeful that cricket would go on despite the coronavirus threat. In India, at a time when all precautionary measures were being considered to check the spread of the virus, the Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI) was hoping to stage the Indian Premier League (IPL). The BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and IPL chairman Brijesh Patel had emphatically stated that “the event will go on”.
It was only after a few state governments announced that they would not permit IPL matches to be held in their state, and the pressure from the Indian government on the BCCI, that they decided to postpone this cash-laden event.
The Pakistan Cricket Board continued with the Pakistan Super League (PSL) despite foreign players deciding to leave the tournament. The BCCI had also wanted the India-South Africa series to continue, but with no spectators.
Even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared coronavirus as a pandemic, the urge to host a league or a series is absurd. A league or a series is not a one-day event; it is held over a period of time in different cities. At a time when all efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus is on, it is strange that organisers were hoping to entertain cricket fans and, in turn, fill their coffers.
Cricket is a business today and is played non-stop, but when it needs to be stopped to protect people’s health, then that should be done. Ultimately sense prevailed when in the IPL governing council meeting many agreed that the health of the fans should be of primary concern. During such a crisis, fans will not be looking forward to watching cricket. Exposing players to public places and getting them to fly from one centre to another would have been dangerous. BCCI, as well as the Pakistan Cricket Board, should not have had any doubts about stopping the events. Pakistan should have discontinued the PSL as soon as some of the star foreign players returned to their country.
Calling off a cricket series has happened even before. Way back in 1939, the start of the Second World War resulted in West Indies, who were playing England, returning to their country. The terrorists attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009 in Lahore and the bomb explosions in Sri Lanka both resulted in series being called off. But this is the first time that the spread of a virus has stopped the game.
No one should regret that cricket, like many other sports, has stopped for now. The game should be played in a clean and safe environment, both for the players and fans. Coronavirus is much more than a swarm of bees or grasshoppers or flying ants, which has stopped play on many occasions.