It’s not a surprise that three West Indian cricketers, Darren Bravo, Simon Hetmyer, and Keemo Paul have opted out of a series in England because they have concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. What is astonishing is that only three players withdrew. Even England captain Joe Root admitted that the situation must be “extremely scary” and the CEO of the West Indies cricket board has said that the board is sympathetic to the players. The West Indies captain, Jason Holder, had compared the decision to play the England series as “no different from a front line worker going into a hospital every day”. He also pointed to the quandary that sportspersons who, unlike most others in these times of social distancing, don’t have a WFH option, face. “The longer we stay off the field, the longer it takes for us to actually make some money,” he moaned.
This would not have been an easy decision for the three players who have preferred to stay home. Regardless of the assurances of the officials, missing out on the opportunity to be on field could impact their careers. Following the games on television will make them anxious. They will have to fight several fears — their replacement cementing his place in the side, a shrinking bank balance with the West Indies board already announcing salary cuts, fans turning their backs to them, dwindling respect in the dressing room.
At the same time, the rush to host a cricket series, the first in the post-COVID world, is understandable: The potential television audience is expected to be huge as sport-starved fans tune into some action. The West Indies board needs money and so does the England board, and the players, broadcasters and other commercial partners whose fortunes depend on the sporting ecosystem. Even so, players who aren’t sure of risking it out there deserve understanding and empathy.
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