New Delhi, April 29 (IANS) While Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were getting the better of SunRisers Hyderabad(SRH) in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi around Wednesday night, the national capital’s Covid-19 toll was mounting, and finished at 368 more deaths and 25,986 fresh cases for the day.
The floodlit ‘entertainment’, however, carried on, consuming crores of rupees with which many oxygen cylinders could be bought for the helpless Covid patients, at least in Delhi. Alas, people continued to die around the stadium, but the match continued.
Delhi, currently crippled by the pandemic, is scheduled to host seven more IPL matches. The Indian cricket board insists that the tournament would continue, even as ‘suffocated’ foreign players have started walking out on IPL, and the criticism of continuing with the tournament is going global.
As many as 3,645 people succumbed and 3,79,257 fresh cases of Covid-19 were reported in India on Thursday. As CSK secured their fifth consecutive win of the season, the nation recorded more than 3,00,000 cases for the eighth consecutive day.
But, undaunted, Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals on Thursday reached the Arun Jaitley Stadium for another IPL match, the 24th of 60, and Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders were scheduled to play the second match on Thursday at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad — another city that is being crippled by Coronavirus.
Ahmedabad reported 5,740 new Covid cases on Wednesday and 26 deaths.
Bengaluru, where 10 IPL matches are scheduled to take place, reported 22,596 fresh cases on Tuesday, taking its Covid tally to 7,10,347, including 2,24,152 active cases.
Chennai, which hosted 10 IPL games, reported 4764 positive cases, bringing the city’s total to 3,23,452 on Wednesday.
One of two persons getting tested in Kolkata, scheduled to host 10 matches, was reportedly returning a positive result on an average while four election candidates have died thus far from the virus in the poll-bound state of West Bengal.
Maharashtra, whose capital Mumbai hosted 10 IPL matches, saw its daily Covid-19 fatalities catapult to the four-digit level on Wednesday with the toll crossing the 67,000 mark though the number of fresh infections reduced, health officials said.
A mere scroll through social media is enough to show the way the medical system in Delhi and the larger National Capital Region (NCR) region has collapsed. People are having to source everything from oxygen cylinders to BiPap machines and plasma donors on their own, often through social media.
It is amidst this that the IPL teams are placed in the tournament’s bio-bubble with access to top-of-the-line medical facilities. “We have a rapid response test in the morning ahead of another test later in the day, and then one at night as well. And that’s for everyone — players, staff, the people who do laundry, cleaners, everyone,” Mumbai Indians fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile told cricket.com.au.
Coulter-Nile’s Australia teammate and Kolkata Knight Riders fast bowler, Pat Cummins, said that he has been advised that the “Indian government is of the view that playing in the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day at an otherwise difficult time for the country”.
However, compatriot Adam Zampa, who is one of three Australians along with Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate Kane Richardson and Rajasthan Royals’ Andrew Tye, who have returned to their country, said that it was hard to imagine the tournament having this effect on those fighting for their lives.
The tournament has been running a public service message featuring commentators and pundits who are part of the broadcast team asking people to wear masks and practice social distancing. This has coincided with players and coaches acknowledging that the situation outside their bio-bubble is dire. All of this was, however, absent in the first two weeks of the tournament, with teams and players’ social media handles consisting mostly of posts related to the tournament and nothing else.
Delhi Capitals spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, however, amplified several SOS calls for medical equipment and names of eligible plasma donors on a regular basis before eventually withdrawing from the tournament himself owing to a case in family.
While those inside the IPL bubble have refrained from going beyond giving perfunctory messages of support, there are several outside it that have either asked for the tournament to be postponed or for the stars participating in it to do better at acknowledging the crisis.
They include shooter Abhinav Bindra, India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist, and former England football stalwart Gary Lineker.
Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton’s comments before the start of the 2020 season is seen as one of the triggers that led to the F1 season being postponed. Asked why he felt the race was still on amidst the early onset of the pandemic, Hamilton replied: “Cash is king”.
The same seems to apply to IPL, which unlike Formula 1, does not seem to have a voice of protest from within. Or, if there is one, it has not been heard as yet.