‘Royal Jail’ – Well, that’s precisely the term Virat Kohli used to describe his claustrophobic public life in India. The world is at his beck and call but there is hardly any escape from the confines of those walls of luxurious suites. Tours to SENA nations do act as an occasional respite. He admitted, he craves for a regular evening walk to the nearby cafe without being papped or mobbed – A possibility which he duly explores, only when on a private vacation in some remote corner of the world which is alien to the phenomenon of Cricket! However, this was the scenario in the Pre-Covid era. The new normal of ‘Bio-Bubble’ has snatched this little perk of foreign tours too.
If we heed to the timeline of this pandemic, one notices that time & again, buzzwords and trendy phrases have made headlines! During the initial outbreak, the Italian origin word ‘Quarantine’ set the ball rolling for the puerile ‘Lock & Unlock’ oxymoron expression, among the other slogans issued in the public interest. To everyone’s frown, ‘Work From Home’ followed suit! Next, to become a rage was the ‘Bio-Bubble’ concept, though primarily in the sporting ecosystem. This brainchild of the ECB has proved to be a savior for cricket and also provided an impetus for other sports to restart, even while the virus is still flexing its destructive prowess.
The best analogy can be drawn from Thermodynamics, i.e., the Isolated System wherein neither the exchange of matter nor energy can take place with surroundings. Similarly – In Bio-Bubble, there are severe restrictions imposed on the movement of players and the interaction with external world measures to zilch. Add to misery the gruesome swab tests conducted twice every week! Hence, the jail life that I mentioned earlier, is now harsher. Not just for Virat but for all those cricketers who get insulated into the bio-bubble. If one attempts to merely sneak out, let alone jailbreak, the repercussions are severe. Jofra Archer was found guilty and subsequently fined £15,000 along with one Test match ban.
Though this novel proposition has resuscitated our beloved sport, the question ‘How far can we push the players’ tolerance limit?’ is gaining grounds! In the normal world, they lived out of a suitcase as well but in well planned short bursts. To cool off, they dropped in at their comfort place after each gruelling series. Now, it’s been more than 3 months since the core group left the shores of our motherland and this exile still has 55 odd days to go. I opine that the amenities loaded mini-world is only a temporary replacement to a human’s natural habitat. Players of varied age-groups – From Sam Curran to Glenn Maxwell have all raised concerns about the mental health deterioration that the prolonged stay in bio-bubble induces!
The counter debate is aren’t they living the life they desired? Playing sport at the elite level – A dream, they chased all day & all night since childhood, is being realized. So why only fuss about the cost of sacrifice? In totality, the fantasy had the element of jam-packed stadiums too which is the missing link these days. The gentle applause after an elegant drive at the Lords, the deafening scream after a venomous yorker at the Wankhede, or the awe-inspired buzz after grabbing a scorcher at the MCG – Ask any stalwart, he’ll merrily swap these moments of appreciation with all other benefits of the game!
Athletes, like creative artists, are the round pegs in square holes. They had the will to follow their heart and gambled the orthodox career choices for the adrenaline rush which sport provides. Any sort of routine doesn’t excite them! In the IPL, turning up at the same set of venues surely diminished the variance quotient for them – The facet which embellishes cricket. With the virtual ambiance, they must have felt like robots mechanized to play. ‘From hotel to ground & ground to hotel’ is equivalent to being stuck in an endless programming loop! This monotony magnifies the melancholy. Pity the poor chap Siraj who is presently miles away from his wailing family. Strange times, they say!
In any professional set-up, the pressure to perform is paramount. The ego-tussles & power-games don’t alleviate the toxic environment either. Cricket, dare I say, is an individual sport played alongside 10 other men. It isn’t as rosy as it appears! The recent reports of conflict between the two modern batting maestros, i.e., Rohit & Virat seem to resonate with the above notion. Even the best in the business need leeways to recoup focus amidst the all-white noise – A luxury banished in recent times. For instance, Sachin felt the urge to clear his mental clatter while being an overnight batsman against the Lankans in Mumbai’97. He zoomed off for a night drive – Worshipped at two iconic temples, had a roadside milkshake, and chit-chatted with a dear friend. Imagine the disciplinarian’s uncharacteristic behavior when he has to resume the battle in a couple of hours!Embed from Getty Images
With the passage of time, the stakeholders are taking these aspects into consideration. Post the Windies & Pakistan tour of the UK, the SOPs have been relaxed. Players can now avail the practice facilities while being on the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Families have been given the nod to accompany as well. Spectators, albeit the 50% constraint, will adorn the colossal stadiums when India kick off the much anticipated down under tour this Friday. Let’s hope, the bottling effect of the bio-bubble vanishes soon and the world can breathe again – Carefree & Mask free!
Cover Image: Navdeep Saini | Twitter
Hello. I am Nikhil Anand! I write on a wide spectrum of sports as this medium of expression is the perfect confluence of my two loves – Sport & Literature. I envision adding layered value & an additional dimension in sports broadcasting!