At the time of writing, Virat Kohli’s last tweet was an exchange with Pep Guardiola in the service of a sportswear brand he endorses. In the meantime, former India Test player and Ranji Trophy legend Wasim Jaffer has offered to use his Twitter presence to amplify Covid-19 SOS calls online. Sunil Chhetri, captain of India’s men’s soccer team, handed his Twitter account to a reporter to similarly amplify efforts to connect and support people. Together, Jaffer and Chhetri have just under two million followers. Kohli has just under 42 million. The magnitude of the difference it could make is staggering. That he chooses not to do so is either selfishness or cowardice.
Almost all of India is in shock, with its crumbling health care infrastructure and overwhelmed burial grounds. The Indian Premier League (IPL), meanwhile, continues in its biosecurity bubble, with its players and administrators seemingly oblivious to the calamity unfolding around them. Calls to stop the tournament have intensified in recent days, fueled by this contrast. As might be expected, IPL defenses also emerged.
Read also | IPL 2021: Bubbles and men whose heads are stuffed
“It is a false moral outrage to call for an end to the IPL in the midst of the pandemic,” said a recent editorial in the Indian Express. If the tournament were to deplete vital resources like oxygen or life-saving drugs, he continues, or if its execution posed a threat to public health, an argument to stop it could presumably be made. Since neither is true in the case of the Indian Premier League, he concludes, she should be allowed to continue. To assert the contrary, “… grudge a few hours of fleeing stressed people is being a killjoy determined to plant a flag on high moral ground.”
The editorial team brings together all the main arguments put forward in recent days in favor of pursuing the IPL amid the horror unfolding in Indian cities. This is the argument of an accountant who tries to show that the limited resources are not used more by the tournament. What about Covid-19 tests? In a recent email, BCCI interim CEO Hemang Amin assured nervous foreign players that the biosecurity bubble in which they operate is tightening. Everyone in the bubble is now tested every two days instead of five. IPL recently moved to Delhi, where these tests are rare, and when they can be found, results don’t arrive for days – a sometimes fatal delay as hospitalization often requires a positive test.
While we believe the implausible claim that the tournament is not straining vital resources (what about the much-vaunted ICU-on-wheel ambulance IPL matches?), What role does the tournament play? Indian cricket see for itself? In a world where teens band together online to try to bridge the chasm left by an absent state, where young men and women die trying to help the suffering, where crematorium workers work without ceaselessly without protective gear, has IPL thought about how it can use its enormous resources to make a difference?
Read also | Hosting and How to Host: An Introduction to BCCI on Profit Trading
Mr. Amin produced what I’m sure he thought was an exciting finish to his email: “Even though you’re professionals and you’ll play to win, this time you’re also playing for something a lot. more important… humanity. ” This is the second argument regularly put forward by publicists to justify the 2021 edition of this multibillion rupee company: it is sport as a public service, cricket as a balm for a besieged people.
This does not appear to be true coming from an organization as historically venal as the BCCI. It also asks us to ignore the evidence with our own eyes. The hollow men who run Indian cricket want their audience to watch but not to see. But we have seen. Anyone who has watched a game will have noticed that every part of the game that could be sold to advertisers has been sold. All six are labeled Unacademy Cracking Six. Where there used to be a man of the match, there are now multiple post-match awards: each nominated for a major sponsor. The IPL does not offer respite to people, it treats a captive audience, trapped inside by the pandemic, for publicity money.
If you’re not convinced, it’s worth asking yourself why the English Premier League hasn’t caused a similar clamor for its closure? Part of this is because the EPL is about football and is not presented as a carnival.
But the biggest difference has been the behavior of his players. At the height of the pandemic in England, Marcus Rashford stood up to the government and demanded that state-funded meals for children during school time be extended until the holidays, to help low-income parents in a economy hit by Covid. The power of his example forced the government to embarrassingly turn around and, most importantly, guarantee food for the children of these low-income parents.
Maybe it’s fair to say he is an exceptional young man, what about the others? Well, they got together and pooled a percentage of their wages and directed it to Covid relief. The amounts varied from superstar to superstar, but that didn’t matter. The gesture was important.
The comparison with Indian cricketers is embarrassing. We have seen Indian cricket stars use their Twitter accounts to replicate the government’s partisan line on farmer protests. We saw them remain silent when their former teammate, Wasim Jaffer, was slandered for being a Muslim. Their past actions give meaning to their current silence. Now, through their silence, they speak for the government. This is one of the reasons there are calls for the suspension of the IPL; because Indian cricket has chosen to be the puppet of this government.
Read also | Super League: Europe chose history over money, are Indian football bosses listening?
The final argument in favor of the IPL is aimed head-on at critics of the tournament. They are accused of acute moralism. Try to imagine a society without any moral sense. But, of course, you don’t have to; you can see it all around you in the corpses burning in public parks, in the senseless deaths that invade this land, and in the senseless indifference that caused them.
It is a profound lack of moral sense and responsibility that brought us here. The simple maxim “Do to others …” has been sacrificed at the altar of the implacable ambition of this government. People can see an echo of this ruthless self-promotion in the IPL, in its grudging and symbolic recognition of the carnage that surrounds it. It is the lack of moral sense that prevents IPL defenders from seeing the horror of playing in bio-secure bubbles in cities where the dead are burned on the sidewalks because crematoriums run out of pyres. .
When Australian pitcher Andrew Tye asked, “… how are these companies and franchises spending so much money, and the government, on IPL when there are people who cannot be accepted at the hospital?” he came across as naive. It took a stranger to ask the obvious question, for many of us are used to indecency. We’ve replaced the steel in our moral compass with gold and we wonder why it doesn’t point north.
(Raghu Kesavan writes on politics, sport and culture. He tweets to @ raghukesavan1)
Read more sports stories on Newsclick