From darkness lead to light will be the fervent prayer of every sportsperson
From inactivity to activity, from darkness to light.... when will this change come about, must be the wish on the lips of every sportsperson as the world continues to reel under the impact of COVID-19 leaving sporting infrastructure in most places a mere standing testimony to the current times.
We have to say most places because countries like Germany and Korea which had gone down in the wake of the virus attack seems to have raised their head and are now open to set football league programme on roll. Surely the sports world all over will watch this in great interest, if anything, to draw inspiration. How a throbbing sector has come to a standstill, still has to be the biggest happening in over 100 years in sports.
Such thoughts creep in when we just look back to last year when on this day, Indian cricket's most looked forward to event, the IPL had its final. Cricket being what it is in India, the occasion can only be imagined. Aside from the near 30,000 roaring fans in the Rajiv Gandhi stadium in Hyderabad there must have been several thousands more all over the country and abroad who had glued themselves to the TV screen to ensure they missed nothing. And sure enough it was such an engrossing piece of action with victory for Mumbai Indians over Chennai Super Kings coming by the minutest of margins _ one run!.
The last over and the last ball finish in that epic contest seem so vivid and then also the post victory frenzy as the players jumped around, hugging and falling on to each other. Triumphant moments are spelt out that way, not just in cricket but at the end of every riveting finale in any sport. The question is, have we seen the last of such acts in sports, at least for some time to come?
With the virus on the rampage, the call of 'social distancing' has been so loud and clear, and also dinned into the heads of everyone, where is the place for 'contact' moments in sports anymore, strictly speaking. Are we then going to see a new era in sports whenever that unfolds? Question and questions keep springing up because inaction can keep the mind ticking on things that would hardly have been a subject for any mention let alone discussion.
But the seriousness of the issue can hardly be overlooked, for the Virus has left none immune to its effects and if sporting activity has to kick start then perhaps measures ought to be put in place to answer the needs of the time. Already international cricket authorities and experts in that sport talk of steps to curb the practice of using saliva to retain the shine on the ball. A cricket match never misses this scene of fast bowlers giving a lick to their fingers before putting the residue onto the ball followed by vigorous rubbing on the flannels. Retaining the shine on one side of the ball helps the practitioners of this art of bowling to achieve more through swing and movement.
In the current state, how could one's saliva be applied onto the ball which will be handled by so many others, is the worry. So the reasoning is that the rules should be sufficiently amended and that would mean effectively use outside substance. Now would that not come in the domain of ball-tampering, something that is considered unthinkable offence in cricket. Only time will say how things are worked out for the prime concern seems more on how early can action begin.
While on distancing, there could be quite a few sporting disciplines which would have a huge worry in hand. Like wrestling, boxing, karate, taekwondo and the like where body contact is high. Even sports like football and hockey for instance can run into this problem because these too are body-contact disciplines and so if compliance is the need then appropriate steps have to come about. How many times have we seen on television a Lionel Messi producing a beauty of a free kick, with the ball curling past a human wall in front and into the goal! Can such a 'human wall' be feasible anymore for now and will that take away that mesmerizing act from a football field? How would the organisers deal with such things will be a point of interest?
The Korean league has started and the Bundesliga will follow and these would provide some insights to the future. As a national cricketer in an interview suggested Indians could henceforth celebrate with a 'namaste' when a wicket falls rather than a high-five and a huddle as now but what would footballers known for displaying high emotional actions at the end of a goal-scoring sequence, be able to hold themselves back? It is fine to have matches in empty stadium to highlight spectator safety, even if it robs away the buzz but players' safety too is a prime question.
Be that as it may, it is clear too many imponderables are bound to be there whenever time is ready for action in the sports arena to begin. Yet for one sport nothing has come in the way for smooth competition! Chess that way has been fortunate. Sitting across the table for a round of chess itself involves safe distancing but now this online effort lately has made this sport take 'distancing' to a new level. The successful conduct of the FIDE Online nations cup must be a heart-warming experience for those in the sport and sporting fans in general. All said and done there is much to look forward to when a new era in sports unfolds, whenever that is!