Ricky Ponting: Covid-19 situation 'quite grim', but IPL can 'still bring a lot of joy'
Delhi Capitals coach says he has urged the overseas players in the team to help the locals cope
Ricky Ponting, the Delhi Capitals coach, has urged the overseas players at his franchise to "keep talking" about the "grim" Covid-19 situation outside the IPL bubble, especially to their Indian colleagues to help them stay in a happy headspace. He also feels that the IPL can "bring a lot of joy" to people in India, where a massive number of positive cases are being reported daily.
"This IPL, probably more than any other, has become more about what's happening outside than what's happening here," Ponting, one of the first major voices to speak on the subject, told the Capitals' media on Saturday. "We right now are probably the safest people in the country being in the bubbles that we are in. Continually I'm asking the boys at breakfast every day how's everything going on the outside, how's family, (is) family safe, (is) family happy. That's a really important thing.
"It is really important, we are thinking about the extended family, not just us, but we've got to be talking about what's happening outside because it is quite grim."
Large parts of India, including the cities where the IPL matches have been scheduled, are in the grip of the raging pandemic, and despite concerns in several quarters, the BCCI is confident that the tournament is safe as it is being held in bio-secure set-ups without crowds.
But even within those bubbles, there has been the occasional setback - the Capitals' allrounder Axar Patel rejoined the team in Chennai this week after spending 20 days in a medical facility in Mumbai. Patel called the experience one of the toughest of his life and rejoining the Capitals one of the best.
Ponting acknowledged that the Indian players, across teams, would be distracted and concerned about their families and friends outside the bubbles. "It is hard for the players to be away from their families. I can't imagine… Even if I put myself in this situation, guys that live in Chennai are actually home now, but can't see their families," he said. "It must be incredibly difficult. So the more we can share these experiences, the better off we are.
"The people that aren't from India, the more that we can be talking to the locals about what they are going through the better off we are all going to be. We will just keep our fingers crossed. And hope people remain safe. That's a big thing for me: the players are taking the best care of their families where they can from the outside."
The other key responsibility that teams and coaches had, Ponting pointed out, was to ensure the quality of the cricket in the IPL remained high. "Even with the country being in a situation that it is, I think cricket can still bring a lot of joy to people," he said. "So it is important for us to be doing what we can as cricketers and as coaches and as a franchise to putting on the best show as possible to give the people something that they'd like to see."
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo