Former India skipper Anjum Chopra said getting used to empty stands should be too hard for athletes, considering sport at the lower rungs is normally played in front of sparse crowds.
“If you’re talking about anything other than men’s cricket, I think everyone knows what it is to play with smaller crowd,” Chopra told Scroll. “Even in men’s cricket, barring international games that are played in near-packed stadiums, even domestic cricket is played with empty stands.”
With international cricket set to return in a couple of days with the Test match between England and West Indies to be played in a bio-secure environment, in the absence of fans, Chopra said, players will find a way to get used to the empty stadium. While acknowledging the fact that it will be a “different” atmosphere, devoid of any energy, she said the players in the middle will simply “focus more on” their activity, rather than thinking about the situation around them.
“It is not the most encouraging sign. For example, an international or IPL game going on at Wankhede, you know when you walk in it’s going to be buzzing but when you walk into a domestic game you’ll see empty chairs.”
“It’s obviously different, the atmosphere isn’t there… the energy you can get from the crowd is missing but to be fair when you start playing the game it does not matter when you have the roar of the crowd behind you and you’re doing well. But sometimes as a player when you are just batting out there it’s just between the bowler and you. So that’s the activity you focus more on, not that you don’t focus on it other days. But that’s a different kind of a challenge and it’s just between you and the ball.”
Chopra, who played in as many as seven World Cups (across formats) through her 17-year international career, has experienced playing in both empty stadium and large crowds. Since her retirement, she has become a popular commentator, working in T20 leagues and covering the international game all around the world.
“I have played in stadiums that have been packed by about 30,000 people, I have played with that kind of a crowd and also played to empty stadiums so we do know how it feels,” she concluded.