Sri Lanka’s decision to pull the plug on a limited- overs tour by India, previously fixed for later this month, had nothing to do with cricket and everything to do with what was beyond its control. The novel coronavirus has had such an allpervasive effect on southern Asia’s sporting fix that going back rapidly to it is quite an impossibility now.
Colombo is close to being off-limits where most varieties of foreigners are concerned and even Sri Lanka’s own players ~ basically their pace bowlers plus captain Dimuth Karunaratne ~ got around to limbering up as late as earlier this week.
The disruption has been so comprehensive that India haven’t gone quite as far as that, with the authorities wary even of specifying a date when the boys will gather for practice ~ and where. The last time an Indian cricket board high-up was asked about it, the answer came clothed in the language of the safety-first school of thinking.
That was just as well, given that the polar opposite of the ploy, espoused and apparently about to be executed elsewhere in the world across a pretty eclectic choice of sporting disciplines, can be a recipe for disaster. You don’t want your hero-worshipped cricketer passing into another world as a martyr to the pandemic.
Or, even taking it in his stride to bounce gloriously back. Let the glory originate in brilliant action when we get going all over again, the crisis months left behind. That it will have been quite a while before the popular wish for competitive international cricket’s return into the limelight should perhaps be clear to everyone from the way the India-Sri Lanka series has been shelved, a setback that includes within its ambit a considerable financial loss to be incurred by the would-be hosts.
England left the island just when it shut itself down, a series against South Africa was postponed and Cricket Sri Lanka doesn’t really know whether another one, versus Bangladesh, will be okayed by the government, and India’s tour not coming off in accordance with schedule implies a looming cash crunch, which is the obverse side of the fight against the deadly virus.
And, while India may be better off, compared with any cricketing country, there is hardly any doubt that its cricket board, by now acutely aware of the assorted imponderables laced into the scenario, can be worry-free. It has been said, with authenticity or not, that up to Rs 4,000 crore will slop down the drain if the Indian Premier League of Twenty20 cricket isn’t played this time around.
The commercial side of the game sees a seismic upheaval in such a situation, the likelihood of its after-effects reaching into unsuspected nooks here, there and everywhere being palpable. This is but one downside of pro sport. When it falls, or copes with a virus, there’s a thud you hear everywhere.