Some of India's top sportspersons give their views on how their disciplines would be like when competitions restart
New Delhi: Will the fans rush back? Will training abroad be as hassle-free as it used to be? What about contact sports where social distancing can't really be practiced?
In a nutshell, will sports and watching sports ever be the same again in a world scarred by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Seeking answers to these questions, PTI sports team reached out to some of India's biggest sportspersons -- current and former -- who gazed into the crystal ball and predicted the future of sports once the action resumes.
The responses were a mix of trepidation and optimism. Here's a peek into their thoughts:
SACHIN TENDULKAR (One of India's greatest cricketers):
I think players will be wary for some time when it comes to using saliva (to shine the ball). It will play on their minds.
High fives and hugging will be avoided too. They will be conscious to begin with and may maintain social distancing.
ABHINAV BINDRA (India's first and only individual Olympic gold-medallist):
While aspects of heightened safety protocols will be integrated for the foreseeable future, the want and attraction of sport will not diminish.
As people have become more conscious of their health and their physical well-being, avenues to use sport to improve fitness will grow.
There may not be so much foreign exposure and this may allow India to build proper sporting infrastructure.
BAJRANG PUNIA (World silver-medallist wrestler):
In wrestling, there is no way you can avoid physical contact. But I don't think there would be any hesitation. I don't see any change happening.
Competition will be intense as athletes will be returning after a long break. They are not used to such long breaks. All of us are analysing our weaknesses and strengths, so when tournaments resume, competition will be intense.
M C MARY KOM (Six-time world champion and an Olympic bronze-medallist):
Sports will change. Since mine is a contact sport I am worried how we are going to deal with it. For the time being, I don't see any sparring happening in training at least, I would be totally against it.
I believe training itself will become very individualistic. As for the fans, they will come back to watch, I don't see any problem there. But yes, the standard of hygiene at tournaments will go to another level.
I believe once a vaccine is developed, things can go back to how they were before but until then, travelling will be less frequent, training will not exactly be a team thing and tournaments, I don't know how they will resume.
VIJENDER SINGH (India's first and so far the only male boxer to win an Olympic medal):
I don't think it would be all that easy to bring back the fans, because I believe people will be wary. But India is an unpredictable country, kuch bhi ho sakta hai yahan (anything is possible here). People have been at home for so long, they might just head to the stadium at the first opportunity.
Logic demands that they become more cautious. Athletes will be more cautious certainly, training abroad won't be all that easy, less tournaments will happen and whenever they do, I am not sure what the participation would be like.
BHAICHUNG BHUTIA (Former India football captain):
In today's age, when television and digital platforms have become such an important part of our lives, I don't think the lack of spectators in stadiums will have much of a bearing as far as business is concerned. I see the TV and digital gaining from this.
Sports events will gradually come back to what they were before. They can be held behind closed doors for now. Till the time a vaccine is out, I don't think they can have people inside as it involves a lot of risks.
B SAI PRANEETH (First Indian male badminton player to win a world bronze medal in 36 years):
We have to travel a lot and I think everybody will be scared to travel to countries like China, Korea and even some European countries.
The fear of contracting the virus will always be there at the back of your mind, whether you are eating in a restaurant or playing. I don't know how even playing would be possible considering the fact that during a match the shuttle is touched by the players and by the service judge.
Also while playing, you change your shirt which is soaked with sweat, so I believe only after we have vaccination, play can start but even then, you will see people wearing masks and trying to avoid crowded places to be safe.
MAHESH BHUPATHI (Multiple-time Grand Slam winning former tennis player):
Sport won't change. Things will be normal once Covid-19 goes away.
JEJE LALPEKHLUA (Top Indian footballer):
It will take a bit of time to get back to normal but once things are normal, we would not be scared to take part.
While travelling and moving between flights, hotels, and cities we just need to be more careful and take care of ourselves and others.
SARDAR SINGH (Former men's hockey team captain):
When sports resume, social distancing is going to be the new norm and it remains to be seen how it is implemented in contact sports like boxing, wrestling or for that matter hockey and football where close tackles and body contacts are common.