The fiasco associated with the conduct of Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour exhibition event following several players including the world No 1 himself testing positive for Covid-19 has lessons for other sports as well, particularly cricket. World No 3 Dominic Thiem has expressed regret at their behavior and images and videos of the players hugging at the net, playing basketball together, and partying at the event have been doing the rounds. They were all playing in the charity tournament in Serbia and Croatia which drew big crowds. The event was called off following the second leg of the proposed four legs and the players said that they trusted the Serbian government’s rules involving the pandemic. But they admitted to being too optimistic. “Our behavior was a mistake’’ said Thiem. “We acted too euphorically. I am extremely sorry’’
Though the players were not breaking government protocol during the tournament it highlighted the risks of athletes from different countries mingling without adhering to social distancing norms. On his part, Djokovic expressed deep regret that the tournament had caused great harm. “We were wrong and it was too soon,’’ he said calling upon all those who attended the Adria Tour event to get tested and practice social distancing.
If all this happens during an exhibition tennis event one can well imagine what could occur during a cricket match which sees a minimum of 15 people – eleven fielders, two batsmen, and two umpires – on the field at all times. When the wicketkeeper stands next to the stumps he is very close to the striker. The slip and short leg fieldsmen normally stand next to one another. An infected person can transmit the virus by coughing or shouting and in cricket, shouting takes the form of an appeal.
However cautious a player may be in his behavior inadvertently he could do something by which he or other players can contract the infection. This is particularly so in the dressing room where so many cricketers converge and the virus could spread. The ball, shoes, and almost any cricket equipment can act as a carrier. The idea of testing all players and match officials before every match poses logistical and medical difficulties. There are many cases where a person tests negative on one day but is actually found to be positive a few days later. A definite positive case is identified only after several tests and scans. The asymptomatic nature of coronavirus only increases the chances of an infected cricketer being cleared to take the field.
This is why medical experts are of the view that resumption of competitive cricket should be put off until a cure is found. The dangers and risks involved are too high at the moment and this has been brought home by the Adria Tour event. Several Pakistan players testing positive on the eve of the national team’s tour of England is also a dangerous signal.