The BCCI’s decision to suspend the latest edition of the Indian Premier League prompted a widespread response from people at large ranging from disappointment to relief, and this was reflected in a polarised conversation on Backstage this week, where the situation was analysed from multiple perspectives. Titled ‘IPL Suspension: What Happens Next?’, the conversation focused on what led to the cancellation, what lay in the near future and the moral views that divided the nation’s reception of the tournament as the pandemic continues to rage. The discussion was led by cricket experts Raunak Kapoor, principal presenter with ESPN India and Nikhil Naz, acclaimed sports journalist and news presenter and joining them on the panel were Meha Bhardwaj, broadcast specialist and ex senior anchor with CNN News 18, Jamie Alter, sports journalist and actor and Jaya Uttamchandani, creative head and co-owner of The Production House.
IPL conversation on Backstage
The session kicked off with a question that loomed large in the minds of the listeners- Was the suspension expected? While the decision had come as a surprise to many, and had left many IPL fans on Bakstage crestfallen, Nikhil believed that there had always been telltale signs. Some of the rigorous protocols that had been followed last year in the UAE, for one, hadn’t been adopted for this year’s tournament. Even though there were multiple arrangements to ensure that safety precautions were prioritized, there was no proper system in place to monitor compliance, and therefore, in his opinion, a breach of the bubble leading to over four covid positive cases was imminent. “I’ve heard some odd stories of how when one of the teams traveled from Chennai to Delhi for the next leg of the tournament that some of them accidentally picked up the wrong luggage. The fact is that even if people were part of the bubbles, they certainly had interactions here and there outside which obviously makes the bubble vulnerable. Like, we know that Varun Chakravarthy went for a scan, which was one of the instances of the exposure of the bubble,” Raunak added.
They also observed that a false sense of normalcy had taken root, which had led to everyone letting down their guard, and this had affected the planning of the tournament. The matches, that had been planned for venues across the country that warranted the players to take flights, had contributed greatly to the rupturing of the bubble.
As the conversation progressed, an attempt was also made to determine if organizing the IPL in the midst of a pandemic could have been classified as the right move or not. Meha Bhardwaj was of the opinion that letting the IPL continue despite the drastic rise in the number of cases and the devastation caused by the pandemic was morally a wrong choice. She talked about how every resource from a health standpoint needed to be directed to those who required it the most, and with the devastation fundamentally altering the lives of countless people, heeding the pleas for help has to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Nikhil also addressed the moral question and stated that while he understood the scale of the tragedy, he could not stand for the guilt policing of opinion makers. He went on to say, “Why must a few opinion makers sit on television and write columns tell us how we should feel guilty with what’s happening? I think we are barking up the wrong tree. I think we should be upset with what’s happening around us but blame the people actually responsible for it! If the IPL motivates me to deal with a new day, allow me the liberty to watch it.”
He had the right to determine how he needed to grieve, he said, and it didn’t necessarily involve turning off the television and not watching the IPL. Multiple people he knew, and who were suffering, derived a small measure of solace from watching the matches each day. However, Meha was of the view that though during the planning stage of the IPL the pandemic seemed to be in control, once the tournament began and the crisis became severe, prompt action should have been taken by the organizers. Speaking from her experience in the corporate world, Jaya Uttamchandani said that with the IPL viewership numbers going up, the one thing that kept her going with constantly providing content was the fact that she was playing her part in helping people escape and that she was bringing something to the table for them.
Another important aspect that was highlighted was the tone-deaf coverage that characterized this season of the IPL, and which made it seem like an alternate reality that was removed from the horrors of the present situation. While IPL commentators had put out pertinent messages and videos, the potential to do more had not been fully explored. By showing more responsibility and doing something symbolic, like wearing a black armband and observing a moment of silence for those who have lost loved ones, or by setting up a helpline number for oxygen supplies, the storm of hatred that had been directed at the tournament could have been calmed somewhat. Nonetheless, painting the IPL as the antagonistic entity has impacted the livelihood of the lakhs of people that the league employed, and that included clerks, freelancers, ad agencies, vendors and junior cricketers.
The mental state of the cricket players was also discussed along the lines of a previous conversation with Sanjay manjrekar on Bakstage. Being away from family members like in the case of MS Dhoni whose parents had both contracted the virus and were hospitalized was mentally challenging for him. The thought of friends battling the disease and facing the risk of contracting the disease in a compromised bubble also deeply impacted their mental health.
The possibility of a future revival of the event, however, could still be considered. The probability of it occurring in India is dampened by the dismal likelihood of a third wave. Conducting both the T-20 World Cup and the IPL in Dubai is a much more feasible option. The experts also mused about how 30 games could be squeezed into 15 days with double headers, in case a window opens up in September or after the T-20 tournament. While they were divided on whether the best course of action was to shorten the tournament or start it afresh, they agreed that being able to broadcast the event in any form was better than not having it at all.
Backstage is a fun casual space for people to interact with real people via audio conversations. You can talk or join conversations about various topics like movies, shows, sports, tech, news, finance, social causes, politics, etc. Bakstage brings fans, celebrities, personalities, brands, influencers into one space and connects them via live audio conversations.
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