Former England captain Kevin Pietersen has accepted the idea of cricket being played in empty stadiums. But he is apprehensive about the future of this year’s T20 World Cup and the English County Championships.
In a chat with Sportstar, he explains the road ahead for the game and the relaunch of his charity Save our Rhino Africa/India (SORAI).
How different will cricket be post the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the changes that you expect once the action resumes?
There will be no crowd and players need to get used to it. They need to be understanding that there will be no crowd for a long time until the pandemic is gone.
Once things normalise, how do you think the season will pan out — both in terms of the game and also in terms of finances?
There will be huge losses. All governing bodies in the world have suffered. Every single sport has stopped. Be it tennis, football, rugby — every single sporting governing body has been hit financially and the games are going to change. Not just sports, the world is going to change. International travel is probably going to be the super luxury item that it used to be 20 to 30 years ago. Until we find a vaccination and until everybody in the world is tested, the world will change.
There is still no clarity on the T20 World Cup. Do you think that the tournament should go ahead?
I am only convinced that sport should take place when everything and everyone is safe. To do so, it’s the Australian government who will have to decide if they want to have the T20 World Cup, whether they want players from all over the world going to Australia. I do know that it is very difficult getting into Australia. As a foreigner, you get checked more in Australia coming in than you do anywhere else in the world. Their board of control is very strong and it’s the most beautiful country. I am sure they want to protect their country. I don’t think the World Cup (T20) will happen.
Most cricket boards have shown interest in playing more T20Is and ODIs to revive the finances. How do you see this move?
Everybody understands that the finances involved within the world of sport are massive. The players’ contracts brought in on the back of big broadcasting deals etc. So whatever way they can recoup that, whatever way they can get the entertainment going for the viewer, I’m all for it.
Since you have been associated with the IPL, what are your thoughts on the tournament’s future?
The key to this is when it is safe to do so; for the players and for people involved in the game. But for fans, I am afraid to say, won’t be at the stands for a very long time. And the players need to get used to it.
The COVID-19 outbreak has also led to the postponement of the English county season. There is no clarity on its commencement yet…
Basically, the ECB will only be worried about the broadcast and making sure that all the ECB-England matches, men’s and women’s, are played as many as possible. So, I don’t see any county cricket this year.
How much of an impact will this pandemic have on the overall franchise-based leagues?
It depends on how the boards react to it and on how they are funded. Each one is different. IPL is franchise-based, Big Bash isn’t. So, it all depends on how financially secured some of the boards are.
The players are also struggling to stay mentally strong…
Well, I am not a sportsman at the moment, but I used to be a sportsman. I think sportsmen can get themselves into great routines and live off a daily schedule. That’s what I have been doing and I have actually enjoyed this. Mentally, it has been one of the most brilliant periods — been able to just stick to a structure, train incredibly hard, keep myself physically fit, eat well and enjoy family time.
The World Test Championships too have suffered due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Do you think there should be any tweaks in the tournament’s format?
No, I guess it’s okay. It will resume when it’s done.
Will this phase have an impact on top teams like England, India or Australia?
It will have an impact on all sportsmen around the world. They haven’t played, haven’t been able to hit a ball, kick a ball, catch a ball!
You are relaunching SORAI. Tell us a bit about your plans..
SORAI will be relaunching in six weeks time. We will have a range of clothing, which we will be selling in India, in the UK and around the world. Twenty per cent of the profit will be going to the CWS in India for all the merchandise that’s sold in India, which protects the animal, human-wildlife conflict in India, protects the Indian rhinos, the elephants and make sure that the animals in India live a better life and we are completely committed and dedicated to making sure that endangered species don’t go extinct.
What are the specific plans to safeguard the Indian rhinos?
You will have to wait and watch the National Geographic documentary where we have put together an App with our technology partner Cisco. We have made some wonderful strides in making sure that humans and wildlife don’t come into contact as badly as they do on some occasions and when there are those catastrophic floods, the humans can protect the animals etc. The documentary is going to be a beautiful piece that’s been shot in India.
In eastern Asian countries, rhino horns are used for medicinal purposes. So, if you could talk about the threat and what all should be done to conserve the rhinos in this part of the world?
Rhino horn is the most expensive commodity in the black market. It fetches between 65 to 85 thousand US dollars. Last week, a rhino was killed in the Kaziranga National Park. In India, they have the most wonderful rhinos, and probably it’s their best conservation project ever in the numbers of rhinos that they are now, where they are having to transport and relocate rhinos out of Kaziranga National Park because of how brilliantly they have protected the animals. So, India is certainly the world leader in the protection of rhino and they have done the most fantastic job and shooting the documentary in March opened my eyes and made me so proud of my association with India.
A lot of people have come forward to help you on the project, do you plan to engage any of the Indian cricketers?
Rohit Sharma puts my rhino on his bat. He is brilliantly dedicated to saving the endangered species. He is a wonderful man of conservation and is somebody who is right at the forefront. He is a great, great guy!