Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (April 3) spoke to India’s top athletes, including cricket stars such as current captain Virat Kohli, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, amid a national lockdown to combat the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 49 athletes, along with Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, are participating in the video call. “Of these, 12 have been given three minutes each to speak and present their view,” a sports ministry source told PTI without revealing the names of the chosen athletes.
All sporting activities are currently shut in the country and it is still not clear when normalcy will resume. The much-anticipated Indian Premier League is among the big-ticket Indian events suspended till April 15.
When Ganguly was asked about the development this morning, he said, “Yes, I will be joining our Honourable PM via video call. But I cannot tell you what will be discussed.”
The ministry source said the athletes have been requested to spread awareness about social distancing through their social media pages. “The PM will ask them to pass across the message of maintaining the lockdown. He will urge them to post videos to keep people occupied,” the source revealed.
Cricketers form a major chunk of the participating list. Apart from Tendulkar, Ganguly and Kohli, others who are participating include World Cup-winning former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, former pacer Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and K L Rahul.
Olympic silver-medallist shuttler P V Sindhu, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, chess wizard Viswanathan Anand, sprinter Hima Das, boxing stars M C Mary Kom and Amit Panghal, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, and teenage shooting sensation Manu Bhaker are among the other accomplished athletes who are participating in the video call.
The pandemic has caused more than 50 deaths in India. The global death toll has crossed 50,000. India’s 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the deadly virus ends on April 14.