Indians in Oz: A mental, physical bubble that needs to be handled with care

The Indian Premier league (IPL) is at its last stage. The tournament was a huge success, with many matches being won with very narrow margins, and Indian cricket unearthed a few extraordinary young talented cricketers. The IPL was just the entertainment required to boost the mentally depressed and anxiety driven cricket fans. Cricket fever has now gripped the ardent lovers of the game. However, it is the cricketers whom one is worried about. The bio secured bubble is a wonderful solution for the safety of the players. However, from reports one gathers that the mental aspect of being isolated, cocooned, and restricted from the world outside has had some significant and concerning effects on a few of them.

Cricket can be mentally very hard on players not performing well in normal conditions. However, in these circumstances their failures would be even worse. It is the state of these lows when cricketers find solace in the arms of their close and loved ones. The present conditions of living in a bio safety environment do make it difficult for a player to feel comfortable to divulge his problems and discuss his issues with others. Although they are allowed to have their immediate families along with them, in most cases this becomes extremely difficult, as one does not want the family life to be disturbed.

The many months of lockdown due to the pandemic and deprivation from playing and practicing cricket was a very taxing situation that arose for a cricketer and so to be back on the field was all they dreamt of. The IPL was just the tonic required to get them back into an arena that they had been missing. The personal protective gear during travel was all fun and games in the initial stages and a cricketer looked at it as “back to work”. Unfortunately, like all new things this too wore off, and the cricketers are confronting a state of mental anguish which they had not been subjected to ever before.

The cricket fans and followers seem satisfied, even though the only way to watch the game is in the comfort of their homes. One needs to look a bit deeper to understand the person who stands before us – the cricketer. With no immediate solution at hand regarding the Covid-19 virus, a cricketer may have to go through a series of bio-bubbles for many months to come to enable him to continue playing the game.

The Indian cricket team which has been chosen for the tour to Australia for the T20, ODI, and Test series, immediately after the conclusion of the IPL, is a case in point. The players whose teams have not qualified for the knockouts have already moved into another bubble and the others will later join them in making it into a big Indian contingent, all assembled like the popular reality show on television, The Big Boss.

The Indian support staff, one gathers, has a mental coach accompanying them. The problem that may arise as regards an Indian cricketer could be one of trust. The Board of Control for cricket in India (BCCI) will, as in the past, require a complete detailed report of each player from the appointed individual. This could put a player’s career in jeopardy if one has relayed, in confidence, one’s emotional and other related problems to the mental coach. A player, therefore, will be most reluctant to do so, especially as it could be used against him.

There have been umpteen incidents in the past where players have been made unfit and maligned by doctors’ reports and dropped from the Indian side. The recent mystery that surrounds the fitness of Rohit Sharma is quite intriguing and one that needs to be further investigated. The super star batsman of the Indian side is a certainty and an important cog in the wheel of all formats of Indian cricket. Rohit Sharma was not considered for the tour as per the fitness report of a hamstring problem given by the BCCI physiotherapist, Nitin Patel. One rued the fact that India was going to miss their star batsman and their vice-captain in a very important tour that could play a significant role in India qualifying for the World Test Championship in 2021.

One was glad to see Rohit Sharma back on the field playing in the IPL for Mumbai Indians. The concerning factor was as to how he recovered so miraculously. In the past, a cortisone injection was all it took to get a player back on the field, and that at times aggravated the injury even further. One hopes that in the quest of making MI retain IPL crown Rohit does not go down the old road. If not, the issue that now confronts Indian cricket is naturally to include him in the touring party. However, the vice-captain’s position could become an embarrassment which could have been easily avoided.

The IPL has been very severe on the physical aspects of Indian cricketers. The months of not playing due to Covid-induced lockdown and being thrust into the fast T20 format has taken a severe toll on most of them. There are a handful of players who are at present injured and hoping to recover in the secured bubble in Australia. Many must be struggling with minor niggles as well.

India’s performance in Australia may be a commercial success for both countries’ cricket boards, but one gets the feeling that the Indian cricket troops will be like soldiers who have been in the front fighting a battle for many months.

They will be a mentally and physically tired bunch that will need coach Ravi Shastri and his support staff to handle them with care. A victory once again in Australia will be a super and remarkable achievement.

By Yajurvindra Singh