Could COVID fear force sports stars into retirement?

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COVID, a global public health emergency, the likes of which hadn’t been experienced in decades, put cricket in shackles for three months and forced cricketers, across nations, indoors.

As a matter of fact, all kinds of sporting activities came to a grinding halt as COVID spread its vicious tentacles across the globe.

After a fairly long spell in the doldrums, however, a semblance of normality seems to have been restored as sports stars, across disciplines, are back in action.

Be it the NBA, English Premier League or other top football leagues or Formula One racing, your favorite athletes are back doing what they do best: entertain.

Cricket, too, has returned from its COVID-induced break.

However, it’s the optics around sporting disciplines that are no longer the same. Almost as if to illustrate how deep the COVID fear has seeped into the global sporting ecosystem, matches are being played to empty stands and there are separate health protocols governing every sport.

The athletes, themselves, are wary these days as they don’t go overboard with their celebrations even in a moment of jubilation.

The familiar scenes of footballers jumping all over a goal scorer or cricketers huddling around at the fall of a wicket seem to be in the past.

However, the question is whether the athletes themselves reckon if the protocols alone can insulate their sport from COVID-19, which, to the uninitiated, is the disease caused by coronavirus.

While leading countries have gone into vaccine development, it is quite likely that they won’t be cleared for production this year till all the safety standards are met. 

Hence, with no drug yet to keep the virus at bay, are players risking infection by returning to their sport? Can this persistent fear around coronavirus push athletes into retirement?

Warner considering retirement due to COVID

The fear of athletes calling an early end to their careers may not entirely be out of place as star Australian batsman David Warner has said that he might consider retirement if the global COVID scenario doesn’t improve significantly in the foreseeable future.

“Obviously, three daughters and a wife, who I owe a lot to, has been a big part of my playing career. You’ve always got to look out for your family first, and with cricket and these unprecedented times, you’ve got to weigh up these (retirement) decisions.”

David Warner to ESPNCricinfo

“It’s a big family decision for myself. There are times when you go away and miss your family a lot and at the moment with all these biosecurity measures that are in place, we’re going to not be able to have the luxury of our families coming away with us now and it could be for the foreseeable future,” Warner said.

For all we know, many of his counterparts could be entertaining similar thoughts at this time.

The threat of coronavirus is clear and present and not even the best of biosecurity measures can guarantee absolute immunity.

While sports is their bread and butter, the athletes would think many times over returning to their disciplines if they didn’t think they were safe.

However, one dares say, athletes, across disciplines, will take a lot of hope from the England and West Indies series that went off well in a biosecure environment. Even the top football leagues got over without any hassle.

Hence, for now, one can safely surmise that the sporting world is safe as long as athletes abide by the rules set for them.

While it may still be some time before absolute normality is restored, viewers will have to attune themselves to the changing optics around sports. It’s the new normal.

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