Editorial: Be a good sport during new normal

Bringing closure to months of unending suspense and days of excruciating wait, the glitzy Indian Premier League (IPL) is all set to get under way this Saturday.
Editorial: Be a good sport during new normal

Chennai

After being beset by a slew of scheduling and other logistical woes, the countdown to the grand curtain-raiser pitting two of the most successful franchises in Chennai Super Kings and defending champion, Mumbai Indians, has begun in right earnest. 
In what is turning out to be an annus horribilis of a year with the sporting calendar thrown into a tizzy, the fact that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has succeeded against all odds in making one of the most popular leagues in the annual cricketing calendar happen, should be a matter of pride for its stakeholders.
For months on end, it appeared as though the most-watched, and the most lucrative, domestic T20 league would not see the light of day in 2020. The ubiquitous pandemic that has spared no sphere of human activity from its clutches, seemed to have set its sights on IPL as well. With the situation in India no longer conducive to hosting a tournament of this magnitude, given the alarming spike in cases, it was incumbent on the BCCI to scout around for a pristine venue abroad. Having already hosted the league in 2014, albeit only partially, the United Arab Emirates emerged as a top contender for an alternative destination once the decision had been taken to move it out of India. The BCCI’s task was made easier when the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) readily consented to play a gracious host.
However, misfortune seemed to plague the league when 13 members of the Chennai Super Kings contingent, including two players, tested positive for coronavirus soon after their arrival in Dubai. That served as a grim reminder that any lowering of the guard would result in untold damage in these abnormal times. The fans, too, would do well not to risk their own well-being and that of others by going overboard and congregating at their regular haunts or in their respective homes. For, this year, unlike in the past, the intense excitement, rush of adrenaline, edge-of-the-seat thrillers will be shared and experienced by fans not in the packed galleries of cricket stadia but in the confines of bars, parlours, pubs, and public meeting places.
It is imperative that they observe the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) laid down and not for a moment breach those norms. Any reckless behaviour on their part would gravely endanger their lives as we are still a long way from returning to pre-COVID 19 days. Although a plethora of stringent curbs has been lifted, that is by no means an indicator that we are out of harm’s way. Instead, they should take a leaf out of the cricketers they idolise and conduct themselves with the utmost discipline that the situation demands. The onus is on fans to see to it that one of the grandest shows in the sports world passes off without a glitch.
As for the might of the teams, like every year, all the eight combatants look evenly stacked up, on paper at least, with no overwhelming favourite in sight. That coupled with the fact that the league is happening on foreign shores will ensure a level-playing field taking the pitch out of the equation. But given the pedigree that CSK and Mumbai command, it would be imprudent to bet against them lifting the glittering trophy. While the absence of the fans will, undoubtedly, take some gloss off the event, the fact that the BCCI steered clear of fishing in the corona-infested waters back home to relocate to a safe haven at short notice will act as a balm to sports freaks in general and cricket addicts in particular.

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