Updated: May 20, 2020 12:48:20 am
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the cricket establishment has fired its latest salvo. On Monday, the technical committee of the International Cricket Council ruled that players can’t use saliva on the ball anymore — an age-old method to shine the ball — but can continue to use their sweat instead. Clarity and coherence were needed on the bigger plan to restart sports in a secure environment. Other sports have been sweating over two-week lockdowns and the micromanaging needed to repeatedly test the players, officials, broadcasters, dressing-room attendants and other people frequenting the stadium. Trust the International Cricket Council to fuss over a minor point even before they announce a larger plan to restart the game.
Individual countries are making small talk about it but the ICC should have taken the lead by chalking out the roadmap. It should have come out with protocols relating to social distancing, contact-tracing, the personnel allowed inside an arena, travel and accommodation plans and the details about temperature checks, COVID-swabs and other bio-security measures that are needed. In the words of the straight-talking Michael Holding, a legend of the game, “If you’re not confident of the bio-secure environment. that you are free of COVID-19, you should not be playing. Then I am not sure why you have to worry about saliva or perspiration.”
There are other ethical questions. Should sport be given such a priority in a country like India where asymptomatic people are tested only if they are in direct contact with positive patients and where there is a lack of enough testing kits? With frequent testing being suggested, would it be feasible to test an estimated 200-300 people in the protective bubble of the stadium? Sports can be a soothing agent in these frayed times but those questions should be debated and a detailed plan chalked out before the ICC starts spitting into the wind about saliva on the ball.
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