Cricket without spectators is something which we haven’t thought of. They seldom happen unless you’re addressing a major problem. They may be conducted when public safety measures are our immediate concern. As we are amid a deadly pandemic, the only way we can enjoy our favorite sport while still staying safe from COVID-19 is to watch it in front of a television screen. And, playing in a stadium full of people could only prove to be a matter of life and death.
What’s a cricket match without a stadium full of roaring audiences, cheering for their favorite team? Cricket has abundant fans and followers, who take this sport super seriously. It is an audience's game. The first and foremost thing that excites a sportsman is the appreciation and applause they receive from a stadium full of a roaring audience.
Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that hit us earlier this year, the chronological schedule of almost every sport including cricket took a back seat. The pandemic had made it impossible for the authorities to give a green signal regarding the resumption of the most loved sport, keeping in mind the safety of the players, and other match officials. The Indian premium league that is usually scheduled in April-May every year, was postponed for almost five months since the whole world was quarantining.
For the first time in the history of international cricket, the players played in an empty stadium without the support of their fabulous and encouraging spectators. This has got to be a remarkable match as it hasn’t ever happened in the last 143 years. This game of passion has a fan following not only in India but worldwide. However, it resumes finally after a halt of 116 days due to the deadly pandemic. After the English cricket board announced the schedule of a three-match series against the West Indies. The British government had earlier announced that live sports can take place after the two-month break caused by covid-19. The first match after months of halt was played between England and West Indies. At the Ageas bowl stadium in Southampton, England on June 8, 2020.
We all would agree on how heartbroken we are, as we are unable to enjoy a live match at the stadium with our friends and family cheering for our favorite team. The cheering that roars every time a player hits a boundary, holding up those colorful banners, chanting those encouraging slogans. The overall ambiance of a filled stadium is what makes cricket so special, right? All of this has become a distant dream, all thanks to our dear enemy COVID-19.
Shortly After the ICC rules of cricket were announced (all rules including the ban on saliva, the substitution of players, three DRS instead of two, appointing local umpires instead of neutral ones, and the attire change )our cricket players were slapped up with tons of rules too. It included:
1. Not handing their belongings like sunglasses, caps, water bottles, and towels to the umpires.
2. Sanitizing their hands after coming in contact with the ball.
3. Not touching their face after touching the ball or any other surface.
4. Getting a covid-19 test every week.
5. Not leaving their hotel rooms too much other than for practice,
6. Not hugging and handing high fives to celebrate wickets or
The umpires were also strictly advised to wear gloves before handing the ball to the players. Adjusting to these rules will take a little time, both for the players and the other match officials as they have been doing these things for years now.
So, what do cricket players have to say about playing
behind closed doors?
When we as an audience can feel so empty and disheartened about not being able to watch live matches at stadiums, we can only imagine what the players must be going through. After all, the love, support, and encouragement of the followers are what these hardworking, talented players yearn for.
Various Indian and international players had a lot to say about playing cricket without spectators. It has apparently become a psychological challenge for them too. Why won’t it? After all our talented players draw enthusiasm and energy from the appreciation of a stadium full of audience, the cheerleaders, the lights, and the camera and the happy faces of the crowd screaming away to glory, when you get that hard catch or hit an excellent boundary. Looks like the players have to look for inspiration and energy within themselves from now on.
For Players like Virat Kohli, David Warner, M S Dhoni, Kane Williamson, and AB de Villiers, Cricket without spectators won’t particularly be a problem. Because they know their potential and deliver to the fullest consistently. But for other youngsters, this might be an erratic twist.
Former England batsman Ian Bell said that playing the game of cricket without the support of the crowd is ‘not ideal” and “hard to imagine.”But they have to adapt as per the situation. He also claimed that a lot of emotions and adrenaline flies around a cricket stadium, but to maintain the safety of the players and other cricket officials, control measures need to be sure taken.
Virat Kohli admitted that the environment of a typical cricket stadium during a live match will be missed but it won’t probably affect the performance or intensity of the players.
Anupama Chopra thinks that even though Cricket without spectators might not be very encouraging. But, at the end of the day when you’re batting out there, sometimes it’s between you and the bowler, and that the kind of activity is what a player must focus on.
Surya Kumar Yadav believes that this new scene of cricket won’t affect the players at all. Because every sportsman grows up playing “gully cricket” with their fellow buddies. According to him, every player has enough experience playing without an audience and this current scenario will not affect them.
S Badrinath says that he has experience with both, playing in front of an audience and playing in an empty stadium. He says it won't affect him. He’d rather live with cricket behind doors than no cricket at all.
We, as an audience, must adapt to this new change, keeping in mind that this bad phase won't last forever. We should get used to this ‘new normal’ for the time being. As long as we are getting to watch entertaining games of cricket in the comfort of our homes, we have nothing to complain about.