Prime Minister Narendra Modi says India needs Virat Kohli's "fighting spirit to win this battle" against coronavirus. (Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (3) discussed the the rapidly-growing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic with India’s top athletes, including cricket icon Virat Kohli and star shuttler PV Sindhu, urging them to support awareness campaigns on social distancing.

More than 40 athletes, along with sports minister Kiren Rijiju, participated in nearly an hour-long 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.

“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 was seen telling athletes in a clip shared by shuttler B Sai Praneeth, a world championship bronze-medallist, who also attended the call.

Modi said sports-persons had a “very important role to play in boosting the morale of the nation as well as spreading the message of social distancing along with asking people to continuously follow advisories given during lockdown.”

He said traits learned in sport, such as the “ability to face challenges, self-discipline, positivity and self-belief”, were “essential tools to combat the spread of the virus”.

The athletes also “praised the leadership of the Prime Minister in this challenging time,” according to the statement.

All sporting activities are currently shut in the country 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.

Cricketers formed a major chunk of the participating list. Apart from Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Kohli, others in the call included top batsman Rohit Sharma, former pacer Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh.

The names of World Cup-winning former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and KL 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 stars MC Mary Kom and Amit Panghal, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, and teenage shooting sensation Manu Bhaker were among the other accomplished athletes who took part in the video call.

Tendulkar, Ganguly, Mary Kom and Kohli were among those who spoke during the interaction.

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.

The Prime Minister felt 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.    Sporting action has come to a halt the world over with all major events either cancelled or postponed.

The list of postponed events includes the Tokyo Olympics and the European football championships, while among the biggest to be cancelled this year is the Wimbledon championship.      T