Commonwealth Games 2022: India cite 'sportsman spirit' but Tahlia McGrath's inclusion shows Australia's double standards
Commonwealth Games 2022: Australia had a Covid-positive player in their playing XI in their gold medal match against India, raising several questions.
Not too long ago, when tennis player Novak Djokovic landed in Australia to play in the Australian Open, the whole of the country got itself tied up in knots, with even the Prime Minister getting involved. It became the biggest global news to have emerged from Australia since the bushfires two years ago. Djokovic's insistence on being unvaccinated and Australia's adamance on treating him as a safety hazard were the biggest takeaways from that.
However, at the 2022 Commonwealth Games cricket gold medal match, the tables turned completely. Australia played one of their first-team members - Tahlia McGrath - despite her returning a positive Covid test before the match.
This resulted in several absurdities. When McGrath took a catch in India's innings and her teammates ran to her to celebrate, she was seen asking them to back away.
Earlier in the first innings, she was shown on cameras sitting in the dressing room away from all her teammates, but she did come on to bat for a 4-ball 2.
Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur said they were 'okay' with the CWG and Cricket Australia's decision to let McGrath play because 'sportsman spirit' had to be shown.
"They informed us before the toss," she said at the post-match media conference. "That was something not in our control. The CWG had to take a decision and we were okay with it since she (Tahlia McGrath) wasn't very ill, so we decided to play. We had to show sportsman spirit. I'm happy we didn't say no to Tahlia, it would've even very hard-hitting for her."
The toss was delayed by around fifteen minutes while India deliberated whether to show 'sportsman spirit' or to put safety first.
Farcical protocol, double standards
"In consultation with the CGF and the ICC, CGA and Cricket Australia medical staff have implemented a range of comprehensive protocols which will be observed throughout the game and for post-match activity, to minimise the risk of transmission to all players and officials," a statement from Cricket Australia said on the situation as the match started.
But whether these safety protocol were efficient enough is anybody's guess. When McGrath celebrated Australia's gold medal at the end of the match and all the players stood close to each other for photographs, it did not seem as if those protocol were being kept in mind. The mask, literally, was off.
The fact that letting a Covid-positive player be in the thick of the action is permissible shows two things - a) the world's perception towards the virus has changed since a year ago and b) Australia's moral standards in sports are inconsistent.
India, on the other hand, have had more than once instance of an athlete not being cleared to compete in CWG 2022 after testing positive.
Para discus thrower Aneesh Kumar Pillai, who had won the bronze medal in the 2018 CWG, was forced to miss the F44 discus throw final after testing positive. "He is asymptomatic but has tested COVID positive. The CGF did not clear his participation...It is really unfortunate as he had his final today," a para official of the Indian contingent had told PTI.
Women's hockey player Navjot Kaur also had to fly back home on the eve of the team's campaign after contracting the virus. Even PV Sindhu was not allowed to enter the Games Village on arrival after an RT-PCR test showed some deviations in her result.