The case of the bio-secure bubble burst by five Indian cricketers in Australia has taken a jingoistic turn. Logic and sanity are the first victims when this happens. But the facts are plain enough. Five Indian cricketers did break Covid-19 protocol by dining indoors in a Melbourne restaurant. The rules allow the squad members to dine out, but only in an open environment; however, the players had dinner in an enclosed area. The incident came to light only when an Indian-origin fan posted a video recording of the five players in the restaurant, with the claim that he had paid their bill and that one of them, Rishabh Pant, gave him a hug. The fan later did a U-turn and said that in fact, there was no physical contact between him and any player. But the damage had been done, and the matter is being investigated. It later emerged that earlier on the tour, captain Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya also broke Covid protocol by visiting a shop for babies’ goods and interacting with employees, and none of them had masks on.
Some former players and analysts are claiming that the Australians are making a mountain out of a molehill in order to put pressure on the Indian players. It is claimed that the five players moved indoors only due to rain, and that they followed all other Covid-prevention rules. This sort of defence, based on jingoism, is not honest — clearly, rules were broken, and that is indefensible. One mistake can cause an outbreak of the virus, with disastrous results — in December, England’s tour of South Africa was called off after the outbreak of Covid-19 among players and staff at their hotel. The risks are real.
The cost of creating a bio-secure bubble is high, as is the financial loss if a series is called off due to the outbreak of the virus. The players, some of whom have been in a bi-secure bubble for close to five months, are under mental stress and many of them wish to break free — if they cannot take it any more, they must quit the squad. But they can’t have it both ways. They are role models, and it is their responsibility to follow rules.