They are confined to the ground or the hotel. They can’t step out, except for games and highly regulated trips or to visit the team room. They are not allowed to meet anyone outside the designated circle. Inside the hotel, they can’t change their rooms or walk across to another player’s room. They have to wear a tracking device at all times to ensure social distancing off the field.
For India’s high-profile cricketers, the cost of playing cricket in a bio-bubble is mounting by the day. So much so, that India captain Virat Kohli, who has been in such a bubble for close to 80 days in the run-up and during the IPL, has issued an appeal: keep cricket tours short, the curbs are taking a toll on players’ mental health.
The IPL gets over on November 10, after which the top players will fly to Australia for a full tour of three One-Day Internationals, three T20 Internationals and four Tests. This means that a player like Kohli, who plays all formats of the game, will end up being in a bio-bubble for close to five months.
“It does get difficult at times because it is repetitive,” Kohli, who is leading Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, told the team’s YouTube channel.
“Mentally, it can be taxing if this continues for this long a period at a consistent rate. It has to be broken down, it has to be based on how the individuals are feeling and I think that conversation should take place regularly,” he said.
“These things will have to be considered, what length of series and tournaments one will play, what impact the players will have mentally of staying in a similar environment for 80 days, and not getting to do anything different, or have the space to go see the family, or small things like that. These things will have to be seriously thought about. At the end of the day, you want the players to be in the best state mentally and physically,” Kohli said.
For the next tour, Australia has one of the strictest Covid restrictions in place. On arrival, the Indian squad will undergo a 14-day quarantine before entering another bio-bubble. However, the players have been given a verbal assurance by the board that their immediate family members can accompany them.
For the IPL in the UAE, the bio-bubble was so strict that players and their franchises faced penalties if they stepped out without permission or a valid reason — a six-day quarantine for the first violation, a one-match suspension and quarantine the second time, and removal from the tournament without a replacement for the third strike.
Besides, the players had to undergo Covid testing thrice on arrival after which they were tested twice every week for the initial fortnight and every fifth day during the tournament.
Kohli, though, is not the first international player to warn against the side-effects of the bio-bubble.
Rajasthan Royals and England fast bowler Jofra Archer said he was “counting days” to when he could go home.
Eoin Morgan, who led England to the 50-over World Cup title last year, said taking care of the mental health of players will be one of the major tasks for a captain in such a situation.
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