'He asked us to spread awareness on social distancing and hygiene. He spoke about how we need Virat's (Kohli) fighting spirit to win this battle'
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday discussed the growing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic with India's top sportspersons, including cricket icon Virat Kohli and star shuttler P V Sindhu, urging them to support awareness campaigns on social distancing.
More than 40 athletes, along with sports minister Kiren Rijiju, participated in a nearly an hour-long video call which started at 11am.
Cricketers formed a major chunk of the participating list.
Apart from Tendulkar, Ganguly and Kohli, others in the call included top batsman Rohit Sharma, former pacer Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh.
The names of World Cup-winning former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and K L Rahul were in the list of participants but it is learnt that they could not attend the call.
Olympic silver-medallist shuttler Sindhu, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, chess wizard Viswanathan Anand, sprinter Hima Das, boxing star Amit Panghal, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, and teenage shooting sensation Manu Bhaker were among the other accomplished athletes who took part in the video call.
The Prime Minister sought the athletes' support to raise awareness about the need for social distancing and personal hygiene at a time when the total number of COVID-19 positive cases in India has crossed 2,000.
The country is in a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
Speaking about the meeting, Das told ANI, "First of all, all the sportspersons thanked the Prime Minister for handling the current situation and talking to us. Prime Minister talked about the measures to contain the COVID-19 and steps the government is taking. We also shared our daily routine and lifestyle in the lockdown."
"I feel sad when people breach the lockdown and pelt stones towards police and doctors. Stay at home and follow social distancing," Das added.
Das and Chanu both attended the meeting with the Prime Minister where top sportspersons talked about the situation in the country.
"Follow the lockdown and maintain social distancing, We have to follow this together to fight against coronavirus. Stay at home and enjoy the time with family. Prime Minister also advised to light a diya, candle, or flashlight on April 5 for nine minutes to fight against coronavirus so please follow that too. Stay at home and stay safe," Chanu said.
"Your suggestions will be taken note of. We are fighting this pandemic like Team India. I am confident that India will be rejuvenated by the inspiration provided by you," the Prime Minister can be seen telling athletes in a clip shared by shuttler B Sai Praneeth, a world championship bronze-medallist, who also attended the call.
All sporting activities have been called off in India 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 BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly was asked about the development this morning, he said, "Yes, I will be joining our Honourable PM via video call."
But he refused to go into the details.
It was later learnt that Tendulkar, Ganguly, M C Mary Kom and Kohli were among those who were to speak during the interaction. However, six-time world champion Mary Kom could not connect to the call due to network issues.
Among those who managed to, former world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu said the PM urged everyone to be united in the fight to combat the pandemic.
"The PM asked us to spread awareness on social distancing and hygiene. He spoke about how we need Virat's (Kohli) fighting spirit to win this battle," added veteran table tennis player Sharath Kamal.
World championship silver-winning shooter Abhishek Verma said the PM urged athletes "to be positive and spread positivity".
"He said appreciate and highlight the work of frontline workers. Take good care of yourself and family at home. He asked us to e-mail any suggestions we have on how to handle the situation better," Verma said.
The Prime Minister said the ability to face challenges, self-discipline, positivity and self-belief, which are essential to sports, are crucial tools to combat the spread of the virus as well.
The PM further asked them to include the following five points in their message to people: sankalp to fight the pandemic, sanyam to follow social distancing, sakaratmakta to maintain positivity, samman to respect the frontline soldiers in this battle including the medical fraternity, the police personnel etc and sahyog at the personal level as well as at national level through contribution to PM-CARES fund. He also asked them to highlight the importance of both physical and mental fitness and also popularize guidelines released by AYUSH Ministry.
Sporting action has come to a halt the world over with all major events either cancelled or postponed.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the European football championships have been postponed, while the Wimbledon championship has been cancelled this year.
The deadly outbreak has caused more than 50 deaths in India. The global death toll has crossed 50,000.
India's 21-day lockdown ends on April 14.