First publised on 2020-03-12 22:41:49
Covid-19 has claimed one more victim. The remaining two one-dayers (the first at Dharamshala today was unfortunately abandoned due to rain) between India and South Africa will be played in empty stadiums. A BCCI spokesman said that since the sports ministry had issued an advisory for holding matches that cannot be postponed without entry of public into stadiums (to avoid mass gatherings that can spread coronavirus), the BCCI has to abide by it. Consequently, the match at Lucknow on March 15 will be held in camera while the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has put ticket sales on hold for the match scheduled at Kolkata on March 18. The CAB has said that it will watch the developments in the next few days before taking a firm decision in the matter.
As the World Health Organization has already declared coronavirus a global epidemic and as the number of positive cases have increased fast in India, no safety measure is enough to stop the spread of the virus. As the virus spreads through contact, any mass gathering can turn into a breeding ground. The government has taken several measures that have put India on quarantine as visas of all foreign visitors have been canceled for a month. Hence, if internal measures are also not put in place, the strict visa regulations will not work. Already, schools, colleges and cinema halls have been closed in Delhi until March 31. Thus it is not inappropriate to hold matches in empty stadiums. In any case, since the matches will be telecast live, fans will not miss out on the action. The cricket associations will lose money, but it will be a small sacrifice in the larger interests of the nation.
Test cricket has been played in near-empty stadiums many times (The Dawn had reported that stadiums were almost empty during the Pakistan-England series in Abu Dhabi in 2015). Closer home, the last day of a Test in Kolkata was played in an empty stadium in 1999 after fans were thrown out for protesting and rioting against Tendulkar's freak dismissal in an India-Pakistan match. But this will be the first time ever that any 50 overs match will be played in an empty stadium in India.