While sporting events around the world are being cancelled or postponed due to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, South African cricket continues – arguably ignorantly.
From the NBA in the United States and Six Nations rugby in Europe to golf’s Indian Open and football’s English Premier League – global sport is being negatively affected by the spread of the virus.
Cricket’s Everest Premier League in Nepal and the T20I series between the World XI and Asia XI in Bangladesh are the latest to join a growing list of tournaments halted by health implications. Whether this year’s Indian Premier League will go ahead remains in the balance.
Meanwhile, the Proteas are still in India for three ODIs, Alan Dawson and other South African veterans are competing in the Over-50 World Cup in Cape Town (now with several confirmed coronavirus cases) and Herschelle Gibbs and company are rekindling cricketing youth in the Road Safety World Series 2020 in Mumbai.
Assurances from the World Health Organisation, South African Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and other authorities seem to be enough for Cricket South Africa and others to keep this month’s cricket going, though.
Mark Boucher’s avoidance of handshakes and Quinton de Kock’s deliberation about spit on the ball might not be enough to prevent infection. This is not hypochondria and fear-mongering. These are genuine concerns for healthy humans, who might be compromised by unnecessary cricket and travel.
Arsenal players are currently in self-isolation after Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted the coronavirus. Marinakis had interacted with some of the Arsenal players and staff during late last month’s Europa League fixture in England. Marinakis hadn’t been diagnosed at the time.
The necessary precautions were taken immediately. Arsenal’s English Premier League tie with Manchester City was postponed straightaway. This is the correct approach, not one that leaves players – who are also fathers, sons, brothers and breadwinners – susceptible to contagion.
‘Wash your hands, watch where you cough and be aware of what you touch,’ reiterated De Kock prior to Thursday’s series opener in Dharamsala, which will largely be played – if at all due to rain – in front of a sparse crowd after the Indian government issued an advisory about avoiding mass gatherings.
Thereafter, the Proteas will travel to Lucknow and Kolkata, where the same basic health principles will hopefully suffice. This is not just the threat of Delhi belly – and presumably the right preventative measures will be taken when they return to South Africa.