The dust is going to settle on this pandemic and the curtains will rise again. The wait will be over for a legion of fans who have been anticipating with baited breath for their favourite sport to resume. The silver coin will flip atop the hats of the captains as they squint towards the sunshine in slow motion and neither of them will shake hands but walk away with their fates hanging in balance and a bottle of sanitizer in their pockets. Sports and games as we know it will change forever now. Not specifically cricket but all sports. Contact or not.
Change has always been a part of the evolution of a sport and it is more often than not a welcome gesture and a prelude to the changing times at hand. But this time things have changed and no one knows for how long and for to what extent.
It is a confirmed projection that the footfall in stadiums will thin out. The fear of the pandemic and the likelihood of contracting it will demotivate even the most ardent fan from coming and watching his or her favourite game. Then the question is what will an athlete play for? Sports is a performance spectacle just like Broadway. Can the Phantom of the Opera hold any meaning without an audience? Can it be telecast live on Zoom? Unlikely.
Athletes will have to brace themselves for a game without an audience. The main source of observing a sport will be the television. Games like golf and shooting may still find their mojo without any eyeballs around but a sport like cricket will have to bite the bullet. How are you going to imagine the IPL without any audience? It is like imagining the Terminator franchise without Arnold Schwarzenegger. This might sound like an innocuous analogy but its ripple effects are deeply concerning and detrimental to any sport.
There has been a lot of talk about not using saliva by bowlers during cricket matches. There has also been talk of maintaining social distancing during a game and ensuring proper care is taken while playing the game. But think about it for a second. Won’t the travails of maintaining Covid-19 precautions impact a player’s or athlete’s performance and ability to deliver his/her best? Can a Tyson Fury unload that upper cut while being pre-occupied with thoughts of contracting a virus? It’s hard to fathom this ambivalence in any sport. This pandemic has deep rooted concerns and resumption of sports has to be undertaken as a scientific challenge and not as a competitive one.
The Tokyo Olympics when canceled gave out a clear-cut signal that unless and until the safety and security in a sport is not renewed the pre-covid frenzy is not a tenable option. But what’s sad here is the situation of the athlete or player who will have to deal with an unimaginable dip in form, lack of practice, zilch motivation from the audience in the stadium and most of all the hopelessness that has come with this pandemic. No one knows how long this nuisance will prevail and no one knows how soon their favourite sport will get to enjoy the same glory it did once.
As time passes the stress has to be put on innovation and invention so that the rhythm of a sport does not die. It will be painful to watch the form and spirit of your favourite sports star fade during this phase. Some sports can be salvaged but some will need more than divine intervention to be resurrected from this abysmal oblivion.