Preparations for India's premier cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL), are underway in full swing. The eight franchise teams seem to be doing a remarkable job as organising and executing the transportation, stay, and travel of their players and support staff must be quite an arduous task. To do so in the limited time they had is even more credible, as planning for a major tournament normally requires several months of brainstorming and preparations.
The players participating in the IPL are going through a novel experience. They need to travel clad in a protective suit and face gear, masked underneath, and their photographs have shown them as a team ready to embark on a journey to outer space rather than to the modern cities of the United Arab Emirates. This understandably is the only way that cricketers could be safely transported to finally make it to the first destination and that is to get them into the bio-secure bubble.
The difficult situation that each one of them will need to face would be six days of quarantine and mandatory isolation. To be confined all alone, with no interaction can be a very depressing experience for an extrovert person or one who enjoys the company of others. This will be the first of the mental ordeals that the cricketers and the support staff will need to confront.
Thereafter, they may feel better once they can mingle with their teammates, coaches and trainers, but restrictions for well over two months at a stretch could be frustrating for many. The mental aspect of how the cricketers will face and absorb the on-field pressures as well as the off the field conditions could play a major role in how teams will fare in the IPL.
One feels, Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma has been very sensible. He has taken his family with him and in doing so he has eliminated the loneliness that many others may confront as the tournament goes on.
The difficult task for the franchises, administrators and organisers will be to ensure that the 300 and more players and participants of the IPL 2020 pantomime do not err in anyway. Virat Kohli very rightly said recently that just one mistake could jeopardise the entire tournament.
This is a major responsibility on the shoulders of each person who enters the scary bio-bubble. Once there, they are engulfed in a world of their own. Maybe a few tips from India's famous actress Shilpa Shetty would have been useful. After all, she did win the famous UK reality show 'Celebrity Big Brother' and hosted the popular Indian show 'Bigg Boss'. This is where housemates or contestants are isolated in a house to compete and survive till the end to aspire to be the winner.
The art of surviving and the mental constraints that arise in such a situation is what could be the differential factor in one's performance on the field as well. The winners of this contest would be just the right people to consult and learn from.
While the hustle and bustle of the IPL is underway, August 17 was earmarked to be the date for the Supreme Court to give a ruling/final verdict on some major issues that were put up to them by the BCCI. Once again, the highest court of India did not bring it up for hearing, leaving the cricket administration in a state of complete uncertainty.
Cricket in India is a religion and is followed by millions. The Supreme Court over the last four years has dilly-dallied in making a firm decision on the way Indian cricket should be administered/governed. They did give a judgment in 2018, but it is yet to be implemented fully and completely. This has given opportunities to administrators at all the centres to interpret and run their organisations in whichever way they feel.
Cricket is just not only a sport but also a huge business in India. Time has come when it needs to be operated in a professional manner with complete transparency. The delay in issuing a final verdict by the Supreme Court is creating an atmosphere in the Indian cricket diaspora that if not curtailed quickly it could lead to complete mayhem. Many of the cricket associations around the country are running them as their personal fiefdom and many who did so earlier are back in the driving seat.
The BCCI, the controlling body, is itself in a state of uncertainty with both their president and secretary having to operate even after their official tenures have expired. The irony of it is that not a single cricket related committee has been put in place apart from the Apex Council and selection committee and the Cricket Advisory Committee that chooses the selectors.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the Indian domestic cricket in a major way. Normal club tournaments and the build-up to the first-class season have all gone awry. Cricket has come to a standstill and the uncertainty of getting it started is worrying.
The task of creating a bio-bubble for domestic cricket would need a herculean effort. The Indian government has tried many methods for curtailing and eradicating the deadly virus but with very little success.
Cricket in India cannot wait endlessly. One wonders as to how it will make it rear its head once again.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)