Coronavirus: Ind vs SA series likely to have restrictions on fan interactions

South Africa cricketers might do away with handshakes during the upcoming ODI series against India as a safety precaution amid coronavirus concerns.

Indian opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan poses for a selfie during an interaction with fans. (File Photo)   -  K. Murali Kumar

An opportunity for cricket fans to get a selfie with their favorite cricketers might not be possible during the upcoming ODI series between India and South Africa due to the rising number of Coronavirus (COVID 19) cases in the country.

Currently, 43 people have been tested positive for COVID 19 in India with a sizeable number being Italian tourists.

South Africa cricketers Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis have been briefed about health safety measures, including restrictions on fan interaction, selfies, etc.

But it will not be restricted to the South Africa series alone and the cash-rich Indian Premier League, starting March 29, could also have some strict health-related guidelines which will bar a cluster of fans from engaging with players, trying to shake hands or come close for a selfie.

“Players have been briefed on preventive measures while they are travelling overseas. These measures cover a variety of protocols to follow for the safety of both themselves and those around them. Fan interaction, selfies and pictures were included in the brief,” a source close to the South African team management told PTI on condition of anonymity.

There has been specific health advisory on avoiding large gatherings and the South African team’s medical unit and their security officers are expected to take appropriate measures to ensure that the players don’t get mobbed for selfies.

READ | Shikhar, Hardik, Bhuvneshwar back in India squad for South Africa ODIs

In fact, South Africa head coach Mark Boucher has indicated that his players might also do away with handshakes during the India series if the medical team instructs, similar to the guidelines that England players will be adhering to during the Sri Lanka series.

There have been suggestions about having Indian Premier League closed doors as the matches will be available on television as well as streamed live on digital platforms.

However, a senior BCCI official said that having IPL closed doors is not an option.

“Did you guys check out what was the attendance during the ATK vs Bengaluru FC Indian Super League play-off game? It was close to 60,000 (50,000 plus). So why would we bar public viewing?” he questioned.

However, he didn’t rule out issuing a health advisory which will prevent players from attending large gatherings.

The problem with IPL is that all franchises more or less have fan engagement activities, which is a part of their sponsorship commitments.

It is still not clear whether franchises will curtail the number of fan engagement programmes that they organise during the course of the tournament.

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