Shorts In The Dark

Can cricket beat corona blues?

The healthy population is suffering from mental health issues arising from the lack of beer to the lack of sport.

 |  Shorts In The Dark  |  4-minute read |   05-04-2020
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These days, I dream of bats and pangolins and wet markets, of civets in cages stacked one on top of the other. In my dreams, drenched in sanitiser, facemasks march in unison, while surgical gloves drop from the sky like diamonds. That the end is the near, we always knew. The arrival of Covid-19 only means that the end is perhaps nearer than we thought. When mankind is brought to its knees by a microbe, it's the most humbling of times.

The invisible threatens the visible. For the scientist, it's still all nature's play. For the religious-minded, it's a punishment for our sins. The virus comes from an enchanted magical realm not visible to the naked eye. The virus is a kidnapper, which takes us hostage. It turns each one of us into a potential suicide bomber, the deliverer of evil, the parasite's human mouthpiece. As the dictum goes: Keep your droplets to yourself.

Selfish empathy

To prevent the virus kidnapping us, we lock ourselves in our homes. Those with no homes quarantine themselves on tree branches. Those with little to eat, like the Van Gujjars, subsist on the leaves of Maljhan, a local creeper. Those with money can't stop feeling privileged and allow their hearts to bleed liberally in foreign publications. The middle class takes the plunge into cooking and self-improvement, like baking sour dough bread and reading antiquated classics of the Western canon. Work from home is taken to mean showing off your home. Overnight Facebook walls turn into the latest issue of Inside/Outside, on stands now.

The world is connected by selfish empathy. Those with babies fret when they hear about the death of a sevenmonth-old baby in Connecticut. Those with old parents breathe a sigh of relief when they hear that Prince Charles has recovered. The Remainers fume and stomp their foot as Boris Johnson seems to be doing just fine. As millennials, post last-hurrah Corona park parties, end up on respirators in New York City, the boomers can't help muttering: 'Told you so.'

Keeping it light

We cast an envious glance at countries like Sweden that haven't locked down. We are mortified by visuals emanating from Italian hospitals. It also spurs some Indians into sharing photos of their last Italian vacation on Instagram. It's not easy being head of state at the moment. If you lock down late, then everyone says: Why did you not learn from China and Italy. Look what's happening in America. If you lockdown too early, the economy's back is broken, before the back-breaking surge happens. In times of great stress, we Indians resort to beating. The police beat citizens, the citizens beat doctors, while the rest of us beat pots and pans. Being the musical type, I don't mind the mindless percussion. It feels like being in a free Trilok Gurtu live-stream, where the untrained audience has taken over in a moment of misguided inspiration.

Lighting diyas will take me back to Elton John performing 'Candle in the Wind' at Lady Di's funeral. In apocalyptic times, we crack jokes to soften the blow, remain stoic. Covid-19, at its worst, is dead serious in intent. Hospitals run out of beds, patients are triaged, doctors play god. It will cut through and take out swathes of population. But there is a silver lining. Out of one million cases worldwide, only 50,000 have died. And this is when testing rates are very low. Millions are asymptomatic carriers (what happens to them? - Quarantined for life?) or have recovered without even seeing a doctor. Fatality rates haven't shot through the roof - lack of testing can conceal infected numbers, but the fact of death cannot be hidden anywhere. It's likely that numbers will spike after the lockdown is relaxed. In the interim, the healthy population is suffering from mental health issues arising from the lack of beer to the lack of sport. The lack of live sport is especially killing; it's for a reason that football or cricket is called a religion.

Sport keeps people sane. After a forensic examination of all games available, I've reached the conclusion that cricket in the time of Corona is possible. Players are naturally separated; longoff is far away from mid-on. No one likes to field at silly point anyway, the fielding position closest to the bat. Twenty-two yards separate batsman from bowler, far more than mandated by social distancing norms. The bulk of the batting side will be quarantined in the pavilion - you come out to bat when your turn comes and return to quarantine instantly, like Rishab Pant.

Sports to the rescue

Facemasks have already made their debut in cricket. Sri Lankan players wore them while playing a match at the Ferozeshah Kotla. The batsman's helmet can easily be modified to accommodate a facemask, in addition to the adjustable steel visors. Sporting events have been banned to prevent large gatherings of people. Test cricket, at the best of times, attracts a small flock of pigeons native to the stadium. It's a sport that naturally sends fans running into self-quarantine. Moreover, Covid19 will also act as a natural deterrent to the abhorrent practice of ball tampering. With live Test cricket on TV, we can sail through multiple lockdowns.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: DailyOh! Why Imran Khan is a Covidiot, to when Daniel Pearl's killer said he was Pranab Mukherjee


Palash Krishna Mehrotra Palash Krishna Mehrotra @palashmehrotra

The writer is the editor of 'House Spirit: Drinking in India'

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