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Explained: How Covid-anxiety is affecting cricketers in the IPL 2021

After the matches in Chennai and Mumbai, the IPL caravan is moving to Delhi and Ahmedabad before rounding off the group league phase in Bangalore and Kolkata. The first match in Delhi is on Wednesday, a city that has been facing an acute oxygen shortage.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: April 27, 2021 9:54:02 am
IPL 2021, IPL amid Covid-19, IPL players, Covid-19 anxieties, Ravichandran Ashwin, Australian players back out from IPL, Explained sports, Express ExplainedRCB's Kane Richardson with Virat Kohli(L) and Ravichandran Ashwin (R).(PTI Photo/Sportzpics for IPL)

India and Delhi Capitals off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has decided to cut short his IPL to ‘support’ his family and extended family in their ‘fight against Covid’. Ashwin is the biggest name to pull out of the tournament. Three Australians have left citing ‘personal reasons’ and an Englishman returned because of bubble fatigue. After the matches in Chennai and Mumbai, the IPL caravan is moving to Delhi and Ahmedabad before rounding off the group league phase in Bangalore and Kolkata. The first match in Delhi is on Wednesday, a city that has been facing an acute oxygen shortage. India recorded over 3.52 lakh new Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours ending 8 am on Monday.

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How many players have left yet?

Five as of now. Apart from Ashwin, Rajasthan Royals seamer Andrew Tye and his teammate Liam Livingstone have returned home. On Monday, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) informed through a tweet that leg-spinner Adam Zampa and seaming allrounder Kane Richardson would be returning to Australia. The tweet, however, mentioned “personal reasons”.

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Is there a concern about bubble safety?

On Saturday, while speaking to the in-house media, Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting said that those inside the bubble are “probably the safest people in the country”. At the same time, he admitted that it “has become more about what’s happening outside than what’s happening here”. Many countries, including Australia and the UK have either banned or reduced the number of flights from India. It has made a lot of players uncertain about returning home after the IPL. With the second wave of the pandemic ravaging India, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) assistant coach David Hussey spoke about how some of the players are getting “twitchy”.

“Everyone’s sort of a bit nervous about whether they can get back into Australia. I dare say there’ll be a few other Australians a bit nervous about getting back into Australia,” he told The Age.

Why has Ashwin left?

After the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the senior off-spinner put out a tweet, saying: “I would be taking a break from this year’s IPL from tomorrow. My family and extended family are putting up a fight against #COVID19 and I want to support them during these tough times. I expect to return to play if things go in the right direction. Thank you @DelhiCapitals”.

A few days previously, Ashwin’s wife Prithi had mentioned that the virus had reached their doorstep. According to a franchise official, a “big chunk” of the off-the-field conversations in the team have been revolving around the situation outside. “There are players and/or support staff in the team whose close relatives have been affected by the virus. It’s not easy,” he said.

Could bubble fatigue be a reason as well?

Yes. Rajasthan Royals batsman Livingstone returned home citing bubble fatigue. “Liam Livingstone has flown back home late last night, due to bubble fatigue accumulated over the past year. We understand and respect his decision, and will continue supporting him in any way we can,” Royals had posted on Twitter.

Almost every international captain has spoken about how tough is bubble life and how it is important to address mental health issues. This was a reason why the England team management ignored criticism and stuck to rotation policy during their series against India that preceded the IPL. As for the T20 league, Sunrisers Hyderabad allrounder Mitchell Marsh had opted out before the start of the tournament as did Chennai Super Kings fast bowler Josh Hazelwood. In fact, several England players had pulled out of the Big Bash also last winter, citing bubble fatigue.

Will the matches in Delhi go ahead?

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal extended the lockdown in the city till May 3, saying that the positivity rate has been “as high as 36 per cent” in the last few days. The BCCI, however, has decided to go-ahead with the matches in Delhi. The Indian board is backing its bio-security arrangements and safety measures, including daily tests and bio-bubble enforcers. Also, separate IPL check-in counters have been set up at airports.

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