India vs South Africa: Spit and polish? Virus dilemma for players
The team doctors have given some basic advice like washing hands often and keep extra focus on personal hygiene. However, in a game of cricket, players can’t be that choosy.Updated: Mar 11, 2020, 22:24 IST
While sports events around the world, from soccer to sumo, are being held behind closed doors because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the India cricket team’s home game will be a damp squib if held without its army of fanatical supporters who act as the twelfth man.
Thursday’s ODI between India and South Africa, the first of a 3-game series, will witness crowds not just from Dharamsala and elsewhere in Himachal Pradesh but also from neighbouring states. However, that raises the threat of coronavirus in a state that depends a lot on tourism for revenue and thankfully hasn’t seen a single positive case.
Both teams, carrying instructions from their doctors, are taking precautions—Proteas will not shake hands—but there are certain things they cannot avoid. Like using saliva to shine the ball or being rude to fans who approach them.
India pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, returning from injury, put things in perspective.
“You can’t say it is dangerous because it has just started in India, but we are taking whatever precautions we can. We have a team doctor who is telling us the dos and don’ts. We are hoping it doesn’t go beyond a limit,” he said on Wednesday.
The team doctors have given some basic advice like washing hands often and keep extra focus on personal hygiene. However, in a game of cricket, players can’t be that choosy.
For example, maintaining the condition of the ball to get it to swing matters a lot. Swing is bread and butter for Bhuvneshwar. To ensure it swings—it can even reverse in a 50-over game—players have to work on the ball using saliva, which can be fraught with risk.
Asked about this, Bhuvneshwar made his clear where his priority lies.
“We have thought about it but if we don’t use saliva, how will we shine the ball? And then we’ll get thrashed and you will say we are not bowling well. But yeah, we have a team doctor travelling with us, we’ll discuss with him and we’ll go with his advice,” he said.
“When it comes to (avoiding) fans, these things we can’t do. In these times, we should try and not go very close to them on our own,” he added, although cricketers rarely get close to fans given the ring of high security.
Hosts Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association has put out information. It has put up boards listing on the precautions to be taken, like avoiding large crowds, although it is a bit out of place as fans will flock to the stadium. It advises people to wear the mask properly. Other directions are to wash hands regularly and get body temperature checked.
HPCA realises a single positive case can hurt the state’s tourism. While the report of all arrivals at the Dharamsala airport is being sent to the Chief Medical Officer, the number of doctors on duty at the HPCA Stadium for the match have gone up from four to 10.
“We are doing this to spread awareness as there will be a mass gathering. There are special thermal thermometres (with infra-red rays) kept in medical areas. Anyone having problems can have temperature checked and the report can be sent to Pune (laboratory),” said a HPCA official.