Cricket behind-closed-doors can cheer up fans amid coronavirus pandemic, says Misbah-ul-Haq
Pakistan head coach and chief selector, Misbah-ul-Haq, realize that while it’s not ‘ideal’ to play in front of empty aisles but it’s an opportunity cost that cricketers would have to bear for lifting the spirits of ‘depressed’ cricket starved fans.
Pakistan are scheduled to tour England for a three-Test match series with the first Test set to be up and running on July 30 and a T20I series is also part of the itinerary.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a cloud of uncertainty over many bilateral tours and even the grandiose Indian Premier League has been indefinitely postponed.
Thus, the fate of Pakistan tour of England is in doubt owing to the prevailing health crisis and given the fact that England Test series with West Indies has already been postponed, the Pakistan tour could also be pushed further back in the calendar unless the pandemic situation improves significantly and the boards along with respective governments deem conditions safe for play.
Given the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus, one cannot expect fans to be allowed entry into the stadiums anytime soon. We might have to wait for like a year to see fans thronging the stadiums as by then we may have a vaccine for COVID-19.
Misbah understands the challenges of playing without raucous crowds too well and that is because Pakistan have played most of their cricket away from their home in UAE in front of sparse crowds but the COVID-19 situation is unprecedented in nature and its scale of impact.
"It's not ideal obviously, you'd love to go there and perform in an atmosphere with spectators - they are the most important part of any sport," Misbah told Stats Perform.
'If we lose fitness in isolation period then it's going to be tough' - Misbah
"If you look at it another way, people are mostly locked down in their homes and no sport is going on at the moment.
Misbah is of the view that live cricket could get fans' minds off COVID-19 and cricket could act as an antidepressant amid an atmosphere of fear and not to mention it would kill boredom while being confined to homes.
"They have nothing to watch and mostly COVID-19 news everywhere and people are depressed. In that sort of situation, if we can start sports, if we can start cricket, at least fans can watch that cricket on TV sitting at home and they can enjoy it," Misbah added.
However, the former Pakistan captain is not implying by any means of playing cricket at the expense of comprising in safety protocols and he only wants cricket to be resumed if nobody's life is in peril.
"If you look at in that way, I think if we can do that with proper safety barriers and nobody is in danger, I think we can just go ahead and start from somewhere."
The all calmness Misbah has been trying to keep his apprentices mentally ready to take the field anytime soon so the contracted top-flight cricketers remain focused on their goals and keep themselves match fit - which is a huge challenge while staying at home.
"I think in this situation, it's more towards individual responsibility as professionals; what we can do, how we are working," Misbah said.
Even in his playing days, Misbah was seen as a role model for young cricketers in the realm of maintaining immaculate fitness standards and regime. The former Pakistan captain's focus has not changed post-retirement now with the coaching hat. Misbah urged players to not lose their fitness and rightly so because then Pakistan would run the risk of falling back to old ways and the regress would impact results.
"We are obviously just trying to communicate to the players that whenever we hit the ground again, the basic thing we need would be fitness. Obviously, if we are fit enough, if we maintain our fitness levels, we can regain our form or skill quickly.
"If we lose our fitness in these isolation periods then it's going to be tough because once we are back on the job it will be difficult for us to either work on the skill or fitness. it's important for the players to physically and mentally prepare yourself."