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IPL amidst India's worst health crisis?

IPL amidst India's worst health crisis?

Sports were introduced to permeate a sense of normalcy but not to salt on the wounds of an entire country. With the death toll rising above 2500 per day in India and coronavirus cases spiked to 349,691 on Sunday, it is astounding to see the Indian Premier League (IPL) glitzy show running in a sepulchral backdrop despite a state of health emergency and amidst the vicious COVID surge in the country. As millions scramble for oxygen and space in the hospitals, how can IPL organisers justify massive spending and continue the irrelevant festivity while being ostensibly oblivious to the harrowing experiences of the patients?

Some of the observers opine that IPL is serving as a distraction for those undergoing adversity but isn't the precarious situation also distracting players from keeping their head in the game? Covid cases are skyrocketing and it looks like the Indian government doesn't have the resources, just like any other developing country with twisted priorities to treat the patients, and it is not a heartwarming sight to see people lying on the roadside striving to get oxygen, ICU beds, and pleading for doctors' attention as hospitals get overwhelmed. 

Who in their right mind and with an ounce of humanity would like to collect big bucks from a country that has almost turned a deaf ear towards its own citizens? In a curfew-like situation in Delhi which is engulfed by the virus, the last thing one would want to see is a carnival-like atmosphere in the stadiums. 

Several Australian players have left for home while Ravichandran Ashwin's conscience didn't agree anymore to continue cricket while his family battles with coronavirus. Paceman Andrew Tye has left the country amid rising cases. Come to think of it, cricket has always been a gentleman's game, quick to respond to international tragedy and crisis. 

For instance, in the aftermath of the gruesome George Floyd's murder in the US, it became a norm to see players take a knee before commencing any game and going back further, Phillip Hughes' death united the cricket fraternity-like nothing else so why in the powerhouse of cricket when thousands are dying on a daily basis in a cricket-loving nation, wouldn't it be appropriate to honour the masses who have always welcomed cricket with open hearts but now when they need support, solidarity and financial assistance, IPL organisers have shown that it just doesn't care about the most important stakeholder - the fans but only cares about profits in this dire situation?

Now players in the subcontinent may not always have the freedom to speak their mind but it's not the case when it comes to players hailing from countries where free speech is an inalienable right. Andrew Tye made a striking observation that would serve as a point of contemplation for the Indian government and the corporate bigwigs.

"But looking at it from an Indian point of view, how are these companies and franchises spending so much money, and the government, on the IPL when there are people not being able to get accepted into hospital?" said Tye. 

David Hussey, while giving an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald, confirmed that some Indian players and staff members lost their relatives to the virus. Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson have also left India after knowing that the Australian government, reportedly, might ban all flights from India in wake of escalation in Covid cases.

Those who believe IPL's show must go on uninterruptedly would have a stronger case if the country's health system didn't collapse and people were taken care of. In no civilized country, sports that is a sign of a healthy and prosperous society would be conducted if thousands of people were losing their lives while fighting with a deadly pandemic. IPL is giving wrong messages now and giving an impression of an elitist society with stark inequalities whose business tycoons do not seem to care about the poverty-stricken masses and the nation's predicament.

Moreover, with each passing day, the likelihood of compromising the biosecure bubble is also increasing. The risk assessment must be done to prevent affecting the credibility of the competition because you don't want to end up like, for instance, Pakistan Super League as once the damage is done owing to infection spread in the bubble, it does irreparable damage to the brand and raises costs of getting the season back on track. IPL, being the pioneer of T20 leagues, would only enhance its reputation, show its corporate social responsibility, and be on the right side of history if they postpone the ongoing 14th edition.