Virat Kohli – Life in a bubble is tough, we need to rethink length of tours
Bio-bubble life can be difficult, and keeping in mind the impact it can have on players mentally, the length of tours need to be considered going forward. These are the thoughts of Virat Kohli, the India and Royal Challengers Bangalore captain.
By the time they get on to the field for the IPL 2020 Eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kohli, like most other players and support staff featuring in the IPL playoffs, would’ve been a part of the IPL bubble for 75 days, with potentially five more days left. Soon after the IPL finishes, players part of India’s touring squad for Australia will fly out directly from Dubai.
India’s Test specialist and coaching staff have just finished quarantining themselves in another bio-bubble in Dubai and will link up with the IPL squad members before flying out.
With the Australia series due to finish on January 19, it potentially leaves players away from their homes and extended families for over five months. India is also due to immediately host England for five Tests and a limited-overs series, which the BCCI hopes to host in India within another bio-bubble.
There is, however, some sort of consolation in that the BCCI has ensured immediate families can travel with the players to Australia, even though there won’t be any concession on the bio-bubble rules.
“It’s repetitive, it’s not as tough when the group of guys is amazing, which we have,” Kohli told RCB TV. “Everyone part of that bio-bubble is really nice, the vibe has been so good. That’s precisely why we’ve enjoyed playing together, just enjoyed our time in the bubble as well, but it does get difficult at times because it is repetitive.”
While the Royal Challengers management has put together a setup to help players unwind – like having a team room for games, indoor game zones, private pools, entertainment zones for karaoke nights, team dinners at private beaches – Kohli believes such things can help take the pressure off only a little but not entirely. Therefore, he wants conversations on mental wellness and other aspects of bio-bubble life to take place regularly.
“These things will have to be considered,” he said. “Like what length of the tournament or series one is going to play and what impact it will have on players mentally to stay in a similar environment for 80 days and not do anything different.
“Or have space to just go and see family or small things like that. These things have to be thought about seriously. At the end of the day, you want the players to be in the best state mentally, based on how they’re feeling. Those conversations should take place regularly.”
Last week, England allrounder Sam Curran, who was part of the Chennai Super Kings, felt players won’t hesitate from opting out of national selection “in the near future” due to the mental strain of going from one bio-bubble to another.
“It is very tricky,” Curran told Sky’s IPL Cricket Show, “but we’re in a very fortunate situation, playing the game we love, going out there and trying to entertain people at home – there’s a lot of people in tough situations. It can be tough – if you’re in all three formats, you’re obviously travelling into different bubbles, not being able to spend time with family, loved ones, things like that.
“I know speaking to the other England players that it is tricky. You look at the tours coming up and there’s going to be a big schedule for all-format players. Some guys, I’m sure, will have to pull out at different stages. Some guys react to it differently: there are days when you’re struggling and days when you feel like you’re coping okay.
“We’ve just got to keep trying to enjoy it: it can be tough at times, and it’s just about trying to speak to the right people around you, and trying not to get too down on the down days because there can be quite a few.”
Curran’s England team-mate Jofra Archer, who has spent time in bio-bubbles since June, more than any other player currently, had admitted that he was counting down days to going home from the UAE, where he was part of the Rajasthan Royals.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo