As the humanitarian crisis in India deepens, so does the desperation of the organisers and franchise owners to plaster over their moral bankruptcy. This while the spineless ICC says nothing, writes RYAN VREDE.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore will wear a special blue uniform to show solidarity with healthcare workers in an upcoming match. The kit will be auctioned off and the proceeds from the sales will be donated to Covid-19 relief programmes in India.
There are other franchises with similar initiatives. A clutch of players have donated in their personal capacity. This is fundamentally good. A country being ravaged by coronavirus in the most devastating way needs all the help it can get.
However, this help could come independent of the tournament’s continuation. Instead, profits are prioritised over people.
When I first addressed this issue on Friday, in excess of 400,000 Indians were being infected a day. Over 200,000 had died since the start of the pandemic. On Monday, India will again report close to 400,000 new cases. This accounts for 40% of the world’s new infections. The death toll will rise to something close to 220,000 by the end of this week. Vaccinations are proceeding, but only 9% of the population are fully vaccinated at this stage. Only 2% have received the first shot.
These are the ‘official’ figures from India’s deeply dysfunctional government. Experts and credible news sources within India are consistent in their view that the true figures are far worse.
Hundreds of Indians died this past weekend while the IPL and its franchises pledged support that was bankrolled through their swollen coffers, and from within a secure bio-bubble. Thousands more will die, because India’s healthcare system – which was fragile at the best of times – has collapsed under the weight of demand.
The IPL organisers, these franchises and many of the players are cash rich, but morally bankrupt. They’ve sought to purchase goodwill and tolerance for a tournament that continues, despite their host country being so overwhelmed by the virus that it still can’t cope despite financial and supplies assistance from no less than 40 countries.
All this while the International Cricket Council, the game’s ruling body in form alone, sits idly watching a tournament it sanctioned, continue.
The ICC has long been the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s lapdog. It surrendered control of the game to India, along with England and Australia, years ago. This ‘big three’ now run the game in ways that serve their best interests. The ICC just manages that process for them from day to day.
Not only has the ICC been disconcertingly silent about the current situation, it’s also allowed the BCCI to take full control of the planning for the T20 World Cup, scheduled to take place in India in five months’ time.
In early April, Geoff Allardice, acting chief executive of the ICC, told Sky Sports there was not yet serious concern that the event may need to be postponed or relocated. At that point the daily new infection rate stood at 100,000.
He added: ‘We do have backup plans that can be activated when the time is right. We’re not anywhere near that timeline yet. We’ve got a number of months to be able to see how the situation is and how cricket events are being run.’
Speaking about the World Cup’s fate this past weekend, the BCCI’s general manager, Dhiraj Malhotra, told the BBC: ‘It’s too early to say what will happen. But the contingency plan is that it would go to UAE with the hosting rights staying with BCCI.’
With 400,000 people a day infected, an increasing number of those are dying. The vaccination programme can’t keep pace with the infection rate and people are literally taking their last breath on sidewalks around India. Yet, Malhotra, who is the former CEO of the Delhi Capitals, determines that it is too early to make a call about the T20 World Cup.
And the ICC remains silent.
Shame on you all.
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