IPL 2020, T20 World Cup should be called off completely: Asif Iqbal

Former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal opined tournaments like the T20 World Cup and the IPL should be called off this year due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Former Pakistan skipper Asif Iqbal plays a shot against Central Zone in Jaipur. (THE HINDU ARCHIVES)   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Asif Iqbal loves speaking his mind. At a time when uncertainty looms large over the resumption of cricket, the former Pakistan captain believes the game will eventually come out stronger, post the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he doesn’t want to rush things. The 76-year-old is of the opinion that big-ticket tournaments like the T20 World Cup and the Indian Premier League (IPL) should be called off this year, as the 'situation is not right'.

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“What is more important - a cricketer’s life or his livelihood? Life, obviously, comes first. Until and unless the situation improves, I don’t think anybody would like to take the risk by resuming cricket all of a sudden,” Iqbal, who featured in 58 Tests and 10 ODIs for Pakistan, told Sportstar from London on Saturday.

Excerpts

Once the lockdown is over, how difficult would it be for cricketing action to resume? Many fear that there may not be any cricket this year. Your thoughts?

To be honest, life goes on. That’s one thing we know. Time doesn’t stop, it goes on. So, this will also pass. When the World War I or World War II happened, it affected a few countries, but eventually those countries rebuilt and organised themselves better than what they were before the wars. Similarly, this phase too shall pass. But it will bring a change in the conduct of the people, not only in sports but also in every aspect of their lives.

Cricket will also come back eventually - may not be tomorrow or day after. But it will come back. To start with, the grounds may not be fully filled. But sportsmen are performers, so they would like to have more spectators coming in. Cricket is no longer just a sport, it’s now an industry. It’s a livelihood not just for the cricketers, but also for so many other people - coaching staff, ground authorities and others. So, it has to come back, maybe in a different format. But cricket will be back.

How should players stay motivated in times like these?

Life is different now. Everything is about technology. There are so many coaching staff associated with the teams. So, with their help and with the use of technology, all the cricket boards, including the ICC, should come up with videos or other advisories which would give specific instructions for keeping the players fit and also helping them with training.

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Things like videos, FaceTime should be used to the optimum. Another factor that will keep the players going is the fact, that they all know that cricket is their livelihood. So, that should motivate them. Most of them are young, and still have a long way to go.

But when action resumes, quite a few changes are expected to be introduced in cricket. What’s your take?

Look, change doesn’t come overnight. Keeping pace with the way we are living now - maintaining social distance, maintaining hygiene - cricket, too, will change. Yes, the players may take a bit of time to get used to it, but eventually, they will accept it. That’s what they are supposed to do.

There are suggestions that artificial substances could replace saliva to shine the ball. How challenging will it be for the players?

The (health experts) say that using the saliva may not be good for the cricketers, as it could spread the virus. So, the players will automatically realise that it’s not good for their health. In the beginning, they may still use the saliva once or twice out of habit, but soon they will stop doing that.

It won’t be a huge problem. Instead of using saliva, they could use sweat, like they did in the past. And also, they will come out with new innovations to keep the game alive and exciting.

Not just international cricket, even domestic cricket and franchise leagues have suffered because of the pandemic. Should they resume?

Look, let’s look at it this way -- what is more important: a cricketer’s life or his livelihood? Life, obviously, comes first. Until and unless the situation improves, I don’t think anybody would like to take the risk by resuming cricket all of a sudden. I also think that the leagues like the PSL, IPL - which are put on hold - should be called off this year.

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran along with Asif Iqbal and Sunil Gavaskar during the fifth Test match between India and Pakistan at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk. (THE HINDU ARCHIVES)   -  K.N. CHARI

 

Irrespective of the financial consequences, the PSL - which could not be completed due to the virus outbreak - should just announce that the 2020 season is just over. Since they completed the whole league, they should just announce the league-topper as the champion for this season.

Also, they should not start in front of an empty stadium. That’s crazy. How can players be motivated to play in front of an empty stadium? This is the time when the players and the spectators should be given confidence. So that they can also realise that when the leagues are back next year, things will be better.

What about the IPL?

Personally, I think it should be called off completely, instead if setting two-month or three-month deadlines. It’s nobody’s fault, but times are such that (you don’t have a choice). Look, when international cricket stopped at Pakistan, neither the players, nor the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were at fault. It was just that some untoward incident happened (the terror attack in Lahore in 2009), which led to the Boards not sending their teams.

Things improved only after absolute security measures were taken. Likewise, this situation is beyond anyone’s control. Unless the virus is eradicated completely, you cannot resume the games. So, it is better that the IPL is called off for this year and held afresh next year.

There is no clarity on the T20 World Cup either. How do you see that?

The players haven’t been practising for a while, so they are not match-fit. They may be physically fit, but that’s not match-fitness. The players need to train together as a team, play practice matches and that takes time.

Since no country is prepared enough, what’s the harm in saying that there won’t be any T20 World Cup in 2020? They can have the World Cup next year. Similarly, as part of the World Test Championships, West Indies and Pakistan are supposed to come to England. I don’t see those series happening in the next couple of months either.

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