Where is the end and when is the new beginning for Sports?
Sitting in the stillness of an unprecedented setting, with nothing to see and nothing to look forward to for some time to come, sports in general is in a situation that has never even been thought of at any stage. “When life is in a standstill where does sport have a future,” Sourav Ganguly the BCCI President seems to have asked while referring to the prospects of IPL 2020.
Indeed, who would have dreamt of empty stadia or zero sports activity or even worse, confronting cancellations and postponement of star events one after another. As such until December this year it is doubtful if anything classic, let alone others, in the sporting world would ever unravel. Such has been the rampage of the deadly COVID-19 the world over and there are no signs yet of an early end.
Sports activities have shrunk to whatever is possible within the four walls of a home or terrace top! Whether one was an Olympic champion or someone who has a daily fitness routine, this has to be the current schedule. How a virus can turn into such a horrific leveller!
In this midst it must be something of a herculean job for anyone connected with making the sports page in a newspaper to find matter to fill up, one would think. But not necessarily because if activities stop there is room for reflections or going down memory lane or better still issue statements that can trigger discussions! For many an athlete or sportsperson the postponement of the Olympics must have been a moment of huge disappointment not because an opportunity is lost but a dream all set to fructify had to remain unfulfilled.
A year's postponement can mar an athlete's level of preparation reaching the peak or add that many more days to a veteran's age to make things that bit more difficult. Some athletes, who have ensured qualification though have welcomed the change because it gave that extra time for tuning up and added that extra punch to his or her performance. Whichever way, the Games being such a looked forward to event by sports-persons all over the world, the shift of period has to leave a trail of highs and lows.
For a few others like cricketers, the pause is an ideal time to dig some incidents from the past or narrate an event of outstanding success with a personal touch and relive the occasion much to the thrill of cricket fans. In this Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh have done their bit and got themselves in the news for various reasons.
As always Dhoni remains a favourite topic to be bandied about. His retirement is a concern for so many but not to the great man himself, it would seem. But perhaps the most insightful has been Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag's accounts of the 2011 World Cup final chase in Mumbai and the reason why M. S. Dhoni was promoted ahead of Yuvraj Singh in the batting line up. We know what Dhoni did, it is all history now of that epoch making win but an inside information could not have found a better time to find into the pages of a leading newspaper when lockdown had starved the readers of live-sport coverage.
If these can be unusual happenings then what is equally amusing is the view of a few cricketers, including overseas players, that the much acclaimed IPL could still be held in empty stadia. True, the famous football leagues in Europe have gone through this phase but what is cricket without a public patronage! Besides, considering IPL's standing, even foreign cricket Boards acknowledge its significance, need an event of this stature require such a treatment is a moot point. For the moment though with IPL's uncertainty high with lockdown in place, such thoughts are at best frivolous.
For the moment then it is forced rest for the hard-worked cricketers. As a former national junior selector and Kerala Ranji captain K Jayaram saw it, this should be a welcome rest for the cricketers. They have hardly been getting breaks of note, thanks to hectic tours and other assignments that relaxation was something that was out of their schedule, strictly speaking.
He believed that this time off from the serious duties would help each of them to take the stress off from their bodies and minds and think ahead with a calmness that can be enriching. Nonetheless, for sure most of the top cricketers must be engaged in his own way because at the end of the day, each is aware of the high stakes involved in this sport.
So what lies ahead is still in the realm of prediction. When can a new sports season start is anybody's guess. Nature's ways are inexorable. Though the Tokyo Organising committee went ahead to announce fresh dates for the Olympics in 2021, there is still a ring of uncertainty of it happening as the CEO of the Olympics Committee Toshiro Muto himself admitted.
Yet for all this, it must be said, Indian football seems to be ready for a step forward! There is news that the All India Football Federation is to bid for the Asian Cup event to happen seven years from now in 2027. This is a championship India had never hosted before. So, who said Indian football is not looking ahead!