Since the day it kicked off its 14th edition on April 9th, the Indian Premier League has regained its back towards the helplessness and gloom into which the country has descended. On the one hand, you have millions of people fighting a losing battle against the virus, and millions of others live in constant fear of losing loved ones; On the other hand, a group of people was in a state of hyper celebration as if they were residing in a parallel world with little idea of suffering outside.
For a sports association that is proud to have the largest fan base and is benefiting from it to win billions through media rights, the insensitivity of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry to the plight of the people was beyond imagination. In the first two weeks of the tournament, there was not even a recognition from the players, officials and commentators of the epidemiological situation in the country. It was business as usual until the backlash started hitting them from all angles, forcing them into some kind of confession and messages.
On Tuesday, BCCI was forced to “postpone the IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect” after several positive cases of Covid-19 across franchises over the past two days.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. The way the Covid-19 virus devastated the entire country, it was only a matter of time before it breached the BCCI biosecurity bubble for all players and officials. How long can you isolate yourself from the tremendous chaos unfolding outside your doors?
There was enough criticism for IPL’s continuation with amplified artificial surround sound for audiences, cinematic beats, fan walls, relentless sponsor mentions and loud celebratory comments. Sympathy for the people was evident through his absence.
The plank that creates jobs for hundreds of people and puts money in the accounts of some local players who might struggle to make ends meet otherwise; It helps keep people at home and relieves them of anxiety caused by depression everywhere that doesn’t seem convincing when you can’t (or don’t) empathize with people who are struggling. You don’t take a wedding procession through a sad house, do you?
More than 2.2,000 Indians have lost their lives to Covid-19 as of Tuesday (by many accounts, this is well below the real numbers). Another 2 crores are suffering from the virus. How do you expect people to enjoy IPL when their morning starts sending out condolences and days they spend inquiring about hospital bed availability?
IPL was played in the UAE last year without major problems. It could have been held there again this year. Against the more than 3.5,000 daily cases reported in India on Monday, the United Arab Emirates recorded just over 1,700 cases. For some incomprehensible reasons, the established powers have chosen to host the tournament in India. As in the Emirates last year, there are no spectators in the stadiums this year either. When it’s a broadcast-only event, what’s the significance of its location? Was it an omission, gambling, or an attempt to win political cake points?
The only difference from last year was the number of stadiums – from three in the UAE to six in India (Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Bengaluru). If anything, there was a lesson that fewer places make it easier to manage dynamic bubbles and keep everyone involved safe. They can learn from the Indian Premier League (ISL) which played its entire season in Goa. What are the motives for making it great in multiple cities?
Some might argue that India’s Covid load was constantly dropping when the decision was made, and no one could imagine the situation would explode like it happened. If this is the case, then BCCI urgently needs better people in decision-making positions who can make judgments for all kinds of potential scenarios.
One of the biggest lessons in the past year has been making short-term plans. Conditions in a pandemic change very quickly and one needs to have Plan B and Plan C ready.
There were clear indications of a spike in Covid-19 cases as early as mid-March when IPL 2021 was still more than 20 days away from its inaugural match. Is the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry so incompetent that it did not think to reserve a spare place to take into account the state of emergency, even if it was unforeseen?
India has just seen high stake elections in five states (!) As political parties rallied millions of people for their rallies to show their strength and support – perhaps one of the largest direct / indirect contributors to the sheer number of cases that Covid-19 has thrown a second wave. Just imagine a situation where the BCCI pulls the IPL out of the country due to the huge burden of Covid-19 issues but the political parties, especially the ruling parties, are not showing the same restraint in their election campaigns. Was the IPL held in India so that their political masters would not be seen in a bad light?
Whether the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry was guided by commerce or was part of a larger narrative building exercise to chart the situation as usual, the bubble it created has burst in its face. Fortunately, the BCCI was not deaf about the worsening in-league situation and made a logical decision to suspend the match.