When a Test series is thrown into bewildering uncertainty as the would-be visitors disagree with the prospective hosts on, among other things, the duration of a quarantine period, cricket, or its southern Asian variety, can quite clearly be seen to head into a time it doesn’t quite understand fully.
Before Covid-19, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh would have got all formalities out of the way simply and briefly over the telephone, handing the media the schedule in Colombo and Dhaka for the customary, if brief, notice the day after.
If in today’s vastly altered circumstances, Bangladesh carped about “historically” difficult coronavirus protocols, listing a 14-day period of isolation when their players wouldn’t even be allowed out of their hotel rooms in Sri Lanka and the absence of local net bowlers, the going seems really hard for the global Test championship which the International Cricket Council started with high hopes quite a while ago.
Dhaka would have been game for a week’s isolation but a fortnight was rather too long in its view. Bangladesh also resent Sri Lanka’s refusal to let in their youth squad as part of the contingent from Dhaka and cite the regulatory rules other, recent series have been bound by, stressing how extremely stringent the island nation’s requirements are.
Their lamentations culminate in a complaint about the different perceptions in the two countries’ ways of looking at the same thing, triggering a question about where cricket’s conventions reach their finality, if any, and concern about public health, if at all, in rather trying times. Going by reports from Colombo, the restrictive protocols are mandated by Sri Lanka’s government, which is only doing its job if it’s trying to shield its people from the pandemic.
India did play a match against Bangladesh amid a public health emergency in pollution- besmirched New Delhi but that mightn’t have been a benchmark others would aspire to. Well might there be those who could be inclined appreciatively to consider the Sri Lankan approach to the matter, going by the indication that it has got its priorities right. If they are scared of the virus and trying their best not to lose a lot of human lives to it, they can’t really be faulted for that.
If the way they are going about it is at odds with cricket’s commercial requirements, it’s the game that will have to come to terms with it. Bangladesh, in contrast, want it both ways on their own terms, which seems to suggest that in their perception of the matter, Covid-19 must know its own limits when it stares at cricket across the field.
The problem is that the point of view, putting it euphemistically, is somewhat unrealistic. Any desperation springing from a keen desire for getting going again will risk a lot, regardless of how the dispute plays out in the none too distant future. It could also set the Test championship back by a mile and a half, but that will only be a sub-plot compared with the dangerous possibilities in the bigger context.