(Updates with Kane Williamson’s views in pars 11-13)
* Batsman says used to playing domestic cricket with few fans
* NZ captain Williamson says players ready to adapt (Adds detail)
NEW DELHI, April 30 (Reuters) - Playing cricket without crowds, should the need arise, would not be a totally new experience for any international player who has risen through the ranks, according to India test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.
Playing behind closed doors has been suggested as one way to resume professional cricket, which has been suspended over the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions it has forced around the world.
Among the tournaments affected is this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), which was scheduled to begin on March 29 but has been postponed indefinitely, delaying Rahane’s debut season for Delhi Capitals.
“COVID-19 pandemic has taught everyone that unexpected things can happen,” Rahane said in an Instagram Live session with the franchise’s official handle.
“As for IPL or any other sport, I feel it could be played without spectators. All of us have played domestic cricket in almost empty stadiums, so that’s an experience all cricketers are used to.
“We are nothing without our fans, and that’s why their safety is of utmost importance. Even if they get to watch some live action from home, I am sure that will be an enjoyable experience as well,” said the 31-year-old.
“The safety of fans is key, and if we need to play in empty stadiums for that, we are open to do it.”
Playing in empty stadiums will never feel the same, but New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said he could understand the players’ desperation to get on with the game.
“When there’s simply nobody there, all you hear is the crack of a cricket bat...but you have to adapt,” Williamson said after being adjudged men’s ODI player-of-the-year at New Zealand Cricket’s annual awards on Thursday.
Williamson gained first-hand experience of playing behind closed doors in a Sydney one-dayer last month before New Zealand’s tour of Australia was cut short by the pandemic.
“When something is taken away from you, often you’re more than happy to compromise in ways just to try and get back to some sort of normality and do what you love doing, and for us that’s being out there and playing cricket.” (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi Editing by Robert Birsel and Raju Gopalakrishnan)