Cricket can wait, lives are at stake: Harbhajan Singh
Kolkata, April 18: Be it closed door matches or the currently postponed Indian Premier League (IPL), cricket should be the farthest thing from everyone's minds amid the COVID-19 global crisis, feels ace India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Thursday officially announced that the 13th edition of the IPL has been suspended till further notice.
Like most major sports across the globe, elite cricket is also on lockdown with suggestions of having games without spectators being mooted by the likes of Eoin Morgan, England's World Cup-winning captain, once restrictions are lifted.
Recently, former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar proposed an India-Pakistan series as part of COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts.
"See cricket is the last thing on my mind at the moment. I am not even thinking about it," Harbhajan told IANS in an exclusive chat.
"There are other way to raise funds. It is not necessary to hold a cricket match. I don't think anyone should think about sports and cricket at this hour. These are small things. Lives are at stake...understand that," said the 39-year old off-spinner who is helping feed 5000 under-privileged families in his native Jalandhar.
"Yes cricket has given us everything. Whatever I am today is because of cricket. But this is not the time to discuss cricket. I would like to talk about how we can help people," said India's third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.
There are doubts over whether the T20 World Cup, to be held in Australia in October this year, would take place or not. Harbhajan said, keeping the situation in mind, a World Cup or an IPL can wait for a year.
"One IPL, one World Cup...what difference will it make if it does not happen this year? But if these things go on, our lives will be finished.
"I know I am not in my 20s anymore but even if I was...I would have said the same thing," said the 103-Test veteran who has also played 236 ODIs and 28 T20s in a career spanning almost two decades.
"We have been taking everything for granted. But this (COVID-19) has taught us to be thankful for all small things. Abhi ghar pe khana bhi banta hai to sochta hu chalo khana to hai (now we are thankful that we are getting food). We also used to take our health for granted. What are you going to do with your money, car, house if you are not healthy. We have to respect that."
Harbhajan also joined the bandwagon in slamming Michael Clarke's comments recently, saying the former Australia skipper should have named players who he felt were "sucking up" to Virat Kohli during the 2018/2019 series in order to maintain their lucrative contracts in the IPL.
"Virat Kohli does not give contracts to all! If you're good enough nobody will stop you. Someone like (David) Warner or (Steve) Smith...how can you stop them? They don't need to fear for their contracts. I don't know if at all he felt there are guys (who fear for their contracts), he should have named them. But I don't think putting everyone on the same boat is right.
"Every franchise has right to buy whoever they want to buy. They know who can win them games. If they will do well, they will have better chance to get picked. So it won't make a difference if you are in Virat's good books or any other player's good books. On the contrary, if someone gets Virat out four times under 10 runs, he will say...pick him," said Harbhajan, a 2007 T20 and 2011 50-over World Cup winner.
Harbhajan, who stays in Mumbai with actress wife Geeta Basra and daughter Hinaya, signed off by saying that he is using the lockdown period to learn cooking.
"We are at home, we do yoga. I am learning cooking. Indian dishes I have learnt, daal sabji banana sikh gaya hu (I have learnt to cook pulses and vegetables). I had never been to the kitchen. I think basic cooking everyone should know," he smiled.