IPL Not A Mental COVID-19 Vaccine

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Corona Effect On Cricket:

 Who would have thought that monitoring the worldwide resumption of sports would also make us wiser about the ups and downs of the global happiness index.Politicians, officials, sportsmen and assorted influencers have predicted the sprouting of smiles once stadiums are unlocked, without the help of science or surveys. At the end of the pandemic pipe, they gesture to the floodlights as they speak about the mystical force of sports to dilute the tragedies that happen in overcrowded hospitals and underused workplaces.

So here is the timetable for smiles. The nation with the worst COVID-19 death count in England at over 40,000 is rumored to change the collective mood in the next couple of weeks. According to their Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, this month’s resumption of the Premier League would “lift the nation’s spirits.” Germany is on the charts with nearly 1.80,000 positive cases, but a wave of optimism has allegedly swept the nation since May 15, when Bundesliga returned after the corona break. That’s if one is to believe the chief of football in Germany.

Meanwhile, in India, the mass mood-swing will come towards the end of this year when the much-delayed Indian Premier League will definitely blast off if some powerful cricket voices are to be believed. And if you would like to trust any of the top BCCI office-bearers, a cricketer-turned-MP, any franchise owners, and a lot of opinion-makers, that’s when cricket brings the soul of this suffering, restless country to soar. Considering the current situation pertaining to COVID 19 pandemic it would require some effort. Poor old cricket, it is in for some heavy-lifting that seems way beyond its weight category.

If cricket had legs under the burden of this unexpected additional responsibility, they would have folded. The load on that national pastime has increased exponentially since independence. In India cricket has been tasked with varied tasks over the years. It is expected to be the unifier for the country, brand ambassador, top entertainer, medium for frequent wars with neighbors without guns and a powerless pawn in tricky diplomatic negotiations. So instead, they want it to go into a bio-safe bubble and even become a champion for the corona.

This is about overestimating the healing potential of cricket as well as underestimating this once-in-a-century tragedy which is responsible for nearly 4,00,000 plus deaths. Will cheerleaders with pom-poms, high-decibel ever-smiling pundits, Bravo’s dance moves, Dhoni ‘s final-ball six inspire you enough to forget tales of the Darbhanga bicycle girl’s 1,200 km ride, or the 73-day-long plight of the Ghanaian footballer outside Mumbai airport or the supreme humiliation of the nameless nurses at the frontline? Certainly not. The dread of bumping into some asymptomatic super spreader at the milk booth next morning can not even be lessened by a T20 cricket evening.

Even if you tried, the sight of empty stands, umpires in gloves, socially distanced batsmen and bowlers suspiciously handling the sanitised balls will keep reminding cricket fans of the lurking virus beyond the closed stadium gates.

It needs to be pointed out: The IPL, at best, is a good diversion at the workplace after a tough day, an ice-breaker in uncomfortable circumstances, and the default background score at spirited get-togethers. Let the devil get its due in colorful clothes.The IPL is more real than reality television and has a better drama than everyday soaps, making it the best option for prime time television. None less, none more — it’s not a COVID-19 behavioral vaccine; not just a placebo.

Many that propose this idea of a Prozac pill being a sport or the ultimate elixir always think of history. They flip back the pages and go as far back as the London Olympics of the aftermath of the war of 1948, the austere post-war games that saw the English fill the stands to the brim — though they had been summarily beaten after fascism. There is no doubt that athletics put war-weary England back to life.

British archives have diligently preserved pictures of folks with sunken cheeks and lean profiles, the tell-tale signs of food rationing and large-scale unemployment, beaming in joy applauding extraordinary athletic feats.

They are going back even to the 1930s Great Depression and think about Seabiscuit and Don Bradman. If the underdog racehorse and working-class batting hero’s unprecedented success motivates economically-crippled countries to rise and walk again, why can’t sports repeat an inspiring encore?

It is because the pandemic’s bleak confusion is much removed from England’s post-war hope or the feeling “we will conquer” during the Depression, it can not. The analogy of apples, oranges and a “hand grenade with a loose trigger” is unjust.

Those who are calling out “sports to lift the nation’s spirits” can also be accused of hijacking the fans’ voice. So far, in Mumbai Indians jerseys, we haven’t seen supporters clanging the Wankhede gates, leading the BCCI to restart IPL so that their mood can change and they can turn their back to the virus happily.Forget dharna, on Twitter, there wasn’t even a hashtag “IPL can beat COVID.”

The push to turn on the stadium floodlights is planned, given the modern-day reality of business being the driver pushing sports. The point about the IPL offering thousands of jobs — while fraught with threats, riders and disclaimers — has more intensity than the hollow rationale of “mood change.” Fire from the shoulders of millions of cricket fans in the country, without giving their opinion, is a dubious move that deserves a red card. The pandemic season of this IPL should be seen with the same scepticism that is reserved for business activities to resume at a time when the virus is still on the loose.

When you switch your mobile phone between score updates on the cricket apps and keep an eye on those diagnosed positive COVID-19 in a 500-meter radius on Aarogya Setu, the spirit of the nation can not soar.

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