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IPL in UAE is a ray of hope amid the gloom

Filed on August 17, 2020

The dramatic spread of Covid-19 has led to sports events across the globe being canceled and many professional leagues being suspended or postponed

When the coronavirus first targeted the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, little did we know that the disease that causes acute breathing problem would paralyse the sporting world. 

From the Olympics to the Wimbledon, the world of sports was brought to a standstill by an invisible enemy. Athletes haven't known such invasion of their sacred space since the World War II.

While the cancelled and the postponed events have thrown up astronomical sum of money that the international sports federations stand to lose due to the global health crisis, it's imperative that we look profoundly at what we might end up losing.

If the race for the vaccine drags on and the second wave of infections plays tricks on the commendable efforts of cricket, F1 and football to bring live sports back, we might not see some of the greatest athletes back on the field again. 

Unlike the performing artist, each year counts in an athlete's short span of life.  A year lost is a huge dent to the psychology of an elite athlete.

Back in May when the coronavirus left Spain battered and bruised, Rafael Nadal, 34, realised that it was futile to talk about returning to normal tennis competitions this year. 

"My feeling, and I say it with sadness and I won't lie to you, is that we are losing a year of our lives," the 19-time Grand Slam winner had said three months before he pulled out of the US Open.

"And at 33 or 34 years old that is much more valuable than at 20 when you have many more years ahead, even if it's still a year. Frankly, I think that will not happen. From the US Open to Roland Garros with a week in between, I just don't think we can play," added the Spaniard, referring to the French Open which was pushed back from May to September.

And Roger Federer, Nadal's greatest rival, just celebrated his 39th birthday, having pulled out of the Covid-19 hit season after undergoing a knee surgery.

With the spike in Covid-19 cases in Victoria already putting question marks over next year's Australian Open, you wonder if you will see Federer, the most graceful of all tennis players, stepping on the tennis court ever again despite his age-defying heroics in recent years.

Saina Nehwal isn't quite Roger Federer. But the Indian shuttler who sparked a badminton revolution in a country of 1.3 billon cricket-obsessed souls with her bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, is now desperate to keep her hopes alive for going into the postponed Tokyo Games next year.

The Covid-19 played havoc with the international badminton schedule, and the 30-year-old Nehwal, plagued by injuries in recent years, is in danger of missing the flight to Tokyo if the former world number one doesn't get a chance to improve on her current spot - 20 - in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings.

The BWF may have updated their qualification regulations for the Tokyo Games, but if the coronavirus continues to spoil their plans on getting their international tournaments back later this year, Nehwal's chances of playing in her last Olympics could completely disappear.

And Mary Kom, the other Indian sporting icon, booked her Olympic berth just before the sporting world came to a screeching halt due to the Covid-19.

Now it remains to be seen if the world gets a grip on the pandemic by next year to help the Tokyo organisers avoid the pain of cancelling the Games. If not, the 37-year-old Kom, a six-time world championship-winning boxer who claimed a bronze at the 2012 Games, is unlikely to get another shot at realising her dream of winning an Olympic gold for India.

Meanwhile, the smiles are finally back at the headquarters of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after the UAE offered them the chance to stage delayed the Indian Premier League (IPL). With its world-class facilities and the remarkable success in dealing with Covid-19 cases, the UAE is the perfect country where the BCCI can salvage their money-spinner in a bio-secure bubble. 

This indeed is a ray of hope amid the gloom for the cricket-deprived Indians as the likes of Virat Kohli can finally enjoy that beautiful sound of the bat hitting the ball again.

- rituraj@khaleejtimes.com


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