Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

The silence in IPL’S bio-bubble is deafening


NEW DELHI: In the midst of the biggest humanitari­an crisis of the pandemic, the Indian Premier League (IPL) sometimes feels like it’s not just happening inside a bio-bubble, but in a bubble in space somewhere far away.

This is not about whether a sporting tournament should be taking place in the middle of what feels like a devastated war zone; let’s concede that there is a space, even a need perhaps, for something like IPL even at a time like this. A need for entertainm­ent, distractio­n, financial impetus etc. Though how exactly organisers believe they can hold the Delhi leg of the tournament, scheduled from April 28, in this besieged capital city is hard to understand. Where will they get the support staff of the police personnel they need? Drivers and vehicles and dedicated corridors for movement? Hotel and hotel staff and stadium staff? How do the players feel themselves having to play while a city burns?

Yet, this is not about that; this is about IPL and all the people involved in it—the cricketers, the administra­tors, the officials, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (Bcci)—behaving like the world outside their bio-bubble does not exist.

A tournament of this stature could have done a world of good in such a dire situation. They could have raised funds for any number of things—food aid, PPE kits, RT PCR kits, oxygen, medicines, ambulances.

Even a brief, sombre acknowledg­ement of the troubles facing people would have meant a lot to viewers and fans. Perhaps a message of hope from the superstars. A message of condolence or solace. Any kind of message at all that said, “Look, we see what’s happening, we are standing with you.” Something more than the autopilot messages of washing hands, wearing masks, and staying at home that the commentato­rs pull out once every ten overs. We have had nothing. Radio silence.

Virat Kohli tweets only ads and selfies. Rohit Sharma’s handle has no mention of the pandemic. Jasprit Bumrah has nothing to offer.

Is it so difficult to reach out to your fans? To the people who worship the game? To the millions who are suffering so badly? So hard to break out of PR driven messages, the banality of sporting cliches, and the brand promotions? It would have meant so much if the reach and influence was used to amplify the many thousands of appeals for help reverberat­ing around social media.

Watching IPL, or following the cricketers on social media, you would not know that there is anything the matter in India at all.

In fact, even the silence may have been better than BCCI president Sourav Ganguly tweeting a scripted ad for a brand manufactur­ing face masks from his official handle. The tweet was later deleted, but the message was clear: whatever the horrors of this unfolding tragedy, it is an opportunit­y for some brand endorsemen­t.

Of the deafening silence from the cricketing community, there are a few exceptions, like Wasim Jaffer and Ravichandr­an Ashwin, who have not shied away from offering their support and solace and acknowledg­ing the battle that’s going on right now. Both of them are amplifying appeals for help, as is Harbhajan Singh. Australia’s Pat Cummins donated money on Monday to the Pm-cares fund and added a heartfelt message on social media.

Ashwin has also now pulled out of IPL, saying, “My family and extended family are putting up a fight against Covid19 and I want to support them during these tough times.”

In the face of such apathy, Ashwin’s words and action are heroic and humane; but also heartbreak­ingly lonely.

All of last year, the sporting world stood up to be counted in important humanitari­an issues —players taking a knee and raising a fist in football, basketball, cricket and F1 resonated deeply with us. Naomi Osaka’s masks with the names of Black victims of police brutality in the US made for moving, powerful visuals.

How will India’s cricketing stars show that they care? That they are capable of some empathy at a time when everyone needs it?

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