Hey IPL Bosses & Stars, Why a Near Silence on COVID Crisis?  

Dear IPL bosses & stars, stand with people in their grief. Do that and you’ll become even bigger heroes for us all.

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Yeh Jo India Hai Na… We love cricket and the IPL. But in the middle of the second COVID wave, can the IPL go on? Should the IPL go on?

These three drawings by Art of Resistance that place the tragic spectacle of thousands of daily COVID cremations inside a cricket stadium sum up one view – that it is simply insensitive to be playing cricket, celebrating wickets falling with high-fives and fist-pumps, even as within kilometres of these stadiums, people are cremating hundreds and hundreds of their loved ones.

The IPL Irony

From 28 April, Delhi became an IPL venue. Feroz Shah Kotla ground is right next to Delhi’s biggest COVID hospitals. While ambulances rush past the stadium carrying patients gasping for life, would it not seem disrespectful for a game of cricket to be going on within? It would.

India's ace shooter and Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra says:

“Indian cricketers and BCCI can’t just live in their bubble, and be deaf or blind to what is going on outside.”
He may be right – Virat Kohli with 42 million Twitter and 111 million Instagram followers, Dhoni with 8 million Twitter and 33 million Instagram followers, Rohit Sharma with close to 19 million followers on Twitter and Instagram – their silence on the unfolding COVID tragedy seems heartless. Can IPL’s organisers and its biggest stars behave as if there was no pandemic?

We see Sourav Ganguly who is also BCCI chief, acting in fantasy cricket ads, we see cricket’s gods – Dhoni, Kohli, Rohit, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant – and even earlier gods – Sehwag, Gavaskar, Dravid – during ad breaks. But barring some messages, we see NONE of them talking about masking, social distancing, or asking people to get vaccinated!

Abhinav Bindra also rightly asks Sourav Ganguly that why has the BCCI, which is worth almost Rs 14,500 crore, barely contributed anything towards fighting the second COVID surge.

Total Silence on COVID Crisis

This inaction is being seen as not caring about the tragedy. Veteran sports journalist Sharda Ugra says:

“It’s as if IPL is being played on another planet. Why no black bands, no minute of silence before a game, why not provide COVID helpline numbers for various cities on TV screens during matches, why no fund-raisers to support frontline workers to fund medical supplies?”

A question for Dada. Team India’s BCCI-run Twitter handle has 14.5 million followers, the IPL’s Twitter handle has 6.2 million followers, the IPL telecast is watched by millions, but barring some short messages, why this silence on COVID? It almost seems, and dare I say it… there is pressure on them all to stay silent.

It’s a silence that mirrors the attitude of the government as well, that has often been in denial about the scale of the crisis. It mirrors the stance of Yogi Adityanath who threatens to jail and confiscate the property of anyone talking about oxygen or ICU bed or vaccine shortages. And don’t forget, politicians have controlled most state cricket associations for decades, even the current BCCI secretary, Jay Shah, is Home Minister Amit Shah’s son.

Don’t Ban, But Tell IPL, ‘Show Some Sympathy’

27 April saw a close game between Delhi and Bangalore. Rishabh Pant getting Delhi close, but losing by 1 run off the last ball. Seconds later, Chahal, Kohli, Mohammad Siraj, whose yorkers in the last over had kept Pant from scoring, all these RCB players were around Rishabh, consoling him.

We saw emotion, drama, and lots of sporting spirit. This IPL has seen stunning centuries by Sanju Samson and Devdutt Padikkal, little known Harshal Patel’s superb bowling, veterans like Gayle, Shikhar Dhawan, Raina, de Villiers showing they can still compete. Sir Ravindra Jadeja’s terrific 5 consecutive sixes.

The point being, that like all sport, IPL too, can be inspiring, uplifting. Taking the impossible catch, completing the impossible run, bowling that unreadable doosra, so much so, that even a critic like Abhinav Bindra accepts:

“There is so much negativity right now that we also need an outlet to keep us going. So, (the IPL) is one element which is very positive.”
To my mind, if IPL fails to follow safety protocols, then call it off. If it is eating up resources that could better used to fight COVID, call it off. If a player chooses to opt out, we should respect that. But otherwise, we should be mindful that the IPL is also a massive economic activity. It sustains hundreds of jobs beyond just the celebrity players and commentators. So, instead of any knee-jerk ban on the IPL, let’s ensure that we do what’s missing, and what’s that: SHOW SOME EMPATHY, SHOW SOME HEART!

Dear IPL bosses, celebrity cricketers and celebrity commentators, Yeh Jo India Hai Na… it needs you to use your privilege and your incredible popularity to let people know you are with them in their grief and to spread the critical messages about masking, social distancing, and vaccination. Do that, and you’ll become even bigger heroes for us all.

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