By Rudraneil Sengupta
This is not about whether a sporting tournament should be taking place in the middle of what feels like a devastated war zone; let’s concede that there is a space, even a need perhaps, for something like IPL even at a time like this.
A tournament of this stature could have done a world of good in such a dire situation. They could have raised funds for any number of things—food aid, PPE kits, RT PCR kits, oxygen, medicines, ambulances.
Even a brief, sombre acknowledgement of the troubles facing people would have meant a lot to viewers and fans. Perhaps a message of hope from the superstars. A message of condolence or solace. Any kind of message at all that said, “Look, we see what’s happening, we are standing with you.” Something more than the autopilot messages of washing hands, wearing masks, and staying at home that the commentators pull out once every ten overs. We have had nothing. Radio silence.
Virat Kohli tweets only ads and selfies. Rohit Sharma’s handle has no mention of the pandemic. Jasprit Bumrah has nothing to offer.
Is it so difficult to reach out to your fans? To the people who worship the game? To the millions who are suffering so badly? So hard to break out of PR driven messages, the banality of sporting cliches, and the brand promotions? It would have meant so much if the reach and influence was used to amplify the many thousands of appeals for help reverberating around social media.
Watching IPL, or following the cricketers on social media, you would not know that there is anything that matters in India at all.
Of the deafening silence from the cricketing community, there are a few exceptions, like Wasim Jaffer and Ravichandran Ashwin, who have not shied away from offering their support and solace and acknowledging the battle that’s going on right now. Both of them are amplifying appeals for help, as is Harbhajan Singh. Australia’s Pat Cummins donated money on Monday to the PM-Cares fund and added a heartfelt message on social media.
How will India’s cricketing stars show that they care? That they are capable of some empathy at a time when everyone needs it?
(The opinion appeared in The Hindustan Times)