‘Pitches must help pacers if use of saliva, sweat banned’: Harbhajan Singh | Exclusive
With sports suspended across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, top athletes feel the new sporting normal will be very different whenever action resumes. India spin stalwart Harbhajan Singh feels the game should wait till the disease subsides or else many top cricketers would be reluctant to return.
India’s third highest Test wicket-taker and World Cup winner, who’s spending the lockdown in his Mumbai home, says in this chat with HT that cricket administrators must rework the calendar as well as the playing conditions to ensure everyone’s safety.
But for Covid-19, you would be playing for CSK in the IPL. What’s going through your mind with no cricket happening?
This is a testing time for everyone. Honestly, I am not even thinking about cricket at the moment. Saving lives and practicing solidarity are the most important things on my agenda. When we began the CSK camp in the beginning of March we didn’t anticipate this as we had large crowds coming in even for practice sessions. Within days and weeks the world turned upside down; nobody is talking about cricket or sports. Everybody is just concerned about saving lives.
How difficult will it be for top players not to train for months and then get ready whenever cricket resumes?
All top cricketers follow a disciplined fitness regime even when not playing. Players like Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma know the importance of fitness very well. They can’t play matches during the lockdown but must be working hard on their physical and mental fitness at home. The India team support staff has some brilliant trainers. They must be monitoring the players and giving them schedules. I reckon within 15-20 days of life coming to normal, players can regain complete physical fitness and get back their cricketing touch.
What chances do you give for IPL this year? If it does happen do you think many foreign players could opt out due to fear?
Travelling from and to will be restricted in many countries in the coming months. I don’t see international players travelling in the near future. I do not know what decisions the (Indian) government and BCCI take on the future of IPL. Honestly, even if IPL doesn’t happen for the first time in 13 years I think that is fine. We can’t force to have cricket seeing the serious situation we all are in. Human life comes first, cricket can wait.
There will be serious concerns about the domestic season, and it might impact Ranji Trophy too?
The domestic season starts in September usually. The BCCI can work it out, make a new calendar for the season. They will have to see what all tournaments can be given a miss this season. Tournaments for India ‘A’ teams and perhaps Challengers Trophy can be removed. All the India cricketers can take part in Ranji Trophy for their respective states. Two teams can be given one venue for playing more than two or three matches, to lessen the burden of travelling. BCCI will have to re-think and chalk out a plan.
The Australia government has banned the use of saliva and sweat to shine the ball in cricket for the near future. What will happen to the bowlers if ICC does that?
The nature of Covid-19 is intense and is here to stay. If cricket resumes in the near future, I think the ban on saliva and sweat will be here to stay. It will be very, very difficult for bowlers. In this scenario, pitches should be made (in a way) that a bowler can get some help. I mean if a bowler cannot even shine the ball to improve his bowling, he should at least not be given paata (flat) wickets. If this is not done, the bowlers will be reduced to a bowling machine. It will then become only a batsman’s game.