Sania Malik finds time to spend with her son Izhaan Mirza Malik at the Dubai Tennis Stadium
Sania Mirza, with her son Izhaan, during her Fed Cup campaign at the Dubai Tennis Stadium in early March. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Sania Mirza, the strongwilled Indian tennis icon, betrayed a rare emotion of staying miles away from her cricketer-husband Shoaib Malik - thanks to the lockdown in India and Pakistan and the flying restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mirza, who returned to the tennis court in January after two years, was travelling non-stop for tournaments, returned to her Hyderabad residence from the USA just before the lockdown was imposed. Malik, meanwhile, was competing in the Pakistan Super League when similar measures were enforced there.

“So he got stuck in Pakistan, I got stuck here. That was very difficult to deal with because we have a small child. We don’t know when Izhaan will be able to see his father again. It’s as basic as that,” the 33-year-old said in an interview with Indian Express. “We are both pretty positive and practical people. He has a mother who is over 65 and by herself, so he needs to be there (Sialkot). So in the end, it worked out best that he was there with her. We hope we are healthy and come out of this on the right side of it.”

Announced the winner of the prestigeous ITF Hearts award last week, Mirza, however, does not have tennis as her priorities at this point.“I don’t have anxiety problems but a couple of nights ago, I was having anxiety out of nothing. I wais lying in bed and thinking of things because there’s so much uncertainty. Having a toddler in the house, you don’t know how to protect yourself, how to protect your child, you have parents who are older. So, you are not really thinking about work or tennis,” she said.

Sania Mirza, Shoaib Malik with an younger Izhaan a few years back. Image Credit: Twitter

Sporting celebrities are often accused in India of leading an insulated life, but the unending plight of migrant workers seemed to have affected her quite badly. Mirza been raising funds and doing zakat (charity) during the Ramadan month, but she knows it’s not enough to help those in need. “It’s almost like you feel guilty to be in a privileged position when you see videos of them,” she says.

Reacting to picture of a mother carrying a child on her shoulder while dragging a suitcase, and having another child on the suitcase - a common sight in this ordeal for the migrant workers and their family, Mirza said: “It’s heart-wrenching. I really do feel for those who go on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis financially. The daily wagers…” she said.

Hours after leading India into the Fed Cup play-offs in Dubai, Mirza hopped on a flight to California to play the Indian Wells Masters. However, the tournament was called off due to the virus. No competitive event has taken place and the Tokyo Olympics was also postponed by a year.

Sport, however, isn’t a priority for her at the moment. “I am really looking forward to being back as a family again and being at the same place. It’s really not been easy staying away from my husband and for Izhaan to stay away from his father. No amount of virtual video calls can do justice to actually meeting in person. I also look forward to a normal world where hugging and shaking hands become normal again, where we don’t think that we might die if we hug someone we love or kill them, you know,” an emotional Mirza added.