Players must play, crowd or no crowd: Pietersen

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The resumption of sport will lift morale for people around the world during the COVID-19 crisis and cricketers owe it to fans to play behind closed doors if that hastens the process, former England captain Kevin Pietersen has told Reuters.

The spread of novel coronavirus has brought sport across the world to a standstill over the last two months and Pietersen thinks every effort should be made to resume professional cricket as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Fans, the public, need a morale boost. Their morale at the moment is so negative, so down in the dumps,” the 39-year-old said in an interview.

“Sport is so uplifting and so positive for so many people. New sport will have to be played behind closed doors until we find a vaccination for coronavirus. Sportsmen have got to deal with it.”

With golfer Rory McIlroy preparing to play a charity event on May 17 and English soccer’s Premier League plotting a return for mid-June, Pietersen finds in unfathomable that any top athlete would not want to be plying their trade as soon as possible.

“Some sportsmen are in the prime of their life. Why would they not want to be playing?” he added.

“So what if the crowds are not there? The crowds may not be there in person but the broadcasting numbers will be massive.”

Looking more broadly at a possible silver lining to the crisis, Pietersen said it was an opportunity for his sport to have a serious look at solutions to problems shared by the entire cricketing world.

“The nice thing, if you can have a look at something that’s nice about this coronavirus, is it’s affecting absolutely everybody,” Pietersen said.

“Virat Kohli is in the same position as Kane Williamson as Joe Root to Steve Smith as Quinton de Kock … we’re all in this together.

“So we’ve all got to come together, understand what’s important to us, work together, get through this together and make good decisions together.”

Always a big favourite with fans, Pietersen hit 23 centuries and scored more than 8,000 runs in 104 tests for England before finally hanging up his bat in 2018 after a few years playing for club teams across the world.

South Africa, where he was born and raised, remains close to Pietersen’s heart and along with his work as a cricket pundit and business interests, he has become closely associated with the conservation of endangered animals in the country.

He is particularly identified with the battle to preserve the rhinoceros and the charity he founded, SORAI or Save our Rhino Africa/India, rescues abandoned, injured or orphaned rhinos.

“When we come out of this global crisis, as humans we have to play a bigger and more significant role in making sure we protect the planet and protect all the species,” said Pietersen, who will relaunch the brand at the end of June.

“There’s no way we can afford to let animals like the rhino go extinct, the pangolin go extinct. It’s just incomprehensible to even think that something like that can happen.”