September 28, 2021

Published from Mumbai, Delhi & Bhopal

BCCI has a case to answer on IPL disaster: Gideon Haigh

Sydney, The Indian Premier League (IPL) was increasingly becoming an emblem of the Indian government’s apathy and sport’s insularity from the raging second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India before it was postponed, said renowned cricket writer Gideon Haigh.

The initial round of IPL matches were held in four cities, including Ahmedabad and New Delhi, where the medical infrastructure is on the verge of collapse due to the increasing number of Covid patients.

Haigh, in his column for The Australian newspaper, wrote that it was strange that the IPL’s line was that it was playing on for “humanity” when the Indian government had claimed at the start of the year that it had defeated coronavirus.

“…there was just the chance for the IPL to extract some legitimacy from the crisis, by putting its shoulder to the wheel of emergency relief. A few players made charitable donations; three franchises pledged funds. Good for them,” he said.

“But then it all rather petered out, and from the BCCI there was two-thirds of diddly squat, just a bizarre effusion from the IPL’s CEO, who told its participants that they were playing for ‘humanity’ — the same humanity, puzzlingly, that India had already saved.”

Haigh came down hard on the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

“So the world’s richest cricket competition stumbled on, increasingly an emblem of the Indian government’s apathy and sport’s insularity, without so much as a black armband or minute’s silence let alone a financial or infrastructural contribution to relieving the burdens of its suffering fans — until the expensive cordon sanitaire was breached and we know the rest,” he wrote.

The BCCI was forced to postpone the IPL this week after the bio-bubbles in New Delhi and Ahmedabad burst, when multiple cases of Covid-19 came up in four of the eight competing franchises.

In the days since, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and other officials have said that the board was taken by surprise the way the number of Covid-19 cases exploded in the country. This brings up the question of what kind of medical council the BCCI took before holding the IPL, said Haigh.

“Kind of makes you wonder. What counsel did the BCCI take about the COVID environment? As distinct from its uncanny intuition about the national spirit,” he asked. “Might its go-to counsel on epidemiology have been that noted expert Narendra Modi, who as recently as two months ago was declaring victory over COVID, and that India had ‘earned the confidence of the whole world’ and ‘saved humanity’.”

Haigh began his column with: “Can an annus mirabilis also be an annus horribilis? The BCCI is testing the possibility.”

And he ended it with: “We must now hope that 2021 does not become an annus terribilis for cricket itself.”

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