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Life In A Bubble: Why Team India Needs A Break

By RAJNEESH GUPTA and HARISH KOTIAN
November 10, 2021 10:25 IST
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IMAGE: The Indian players have mostly been on the road since the IPL last year enduring the rigours of a bio-bubble, which has seen them getting virtually cut-off from the outside world and at times their own families. Photograph: Virat Kohli/Twitter
 

As the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the world, the Indian cricketers spent a few months away from the action last year.

Cricket resumed amid COVID-19 but with strict measures like bio-bubble, which has seen the Indian players getting isolated for months in a row, as the BCCI looks keen to make up for lost time.

The Indian players had their first taste of life in a bio-bubble before the IPL last year.

IPL 2020, which was originally scheduled to be held in April-May, was postponed to September-November and was shifted to the UAE.

Since then, Indian players have mostly been on the road enduring the rigours of a bio-bubble, which has seen them getting virtually cut-off from the outside world and at times their own families.

After IPL 2020 ended on November 10, 2020, India toured Australia for a long tour of tour Tests, three ODIs and as many T20Is. The Indian squad arrived in Sydney on November 12 and served a two-week long quarantine period before the start of the ODI series, which was followed by the T20I series and the Test series.

After the Australia tour, the Indian players got a break of six days before they entered in another bubble for the home series against England earlier this year, which comprised of four Tests, five T20Is and three ODIs between February and March 2021.

After the series against England ended on March 28, Indian players entered in to the bio-bubbles of their respective IPL franchises.

IPL 2021 began on April 9 and had to be suspended midway on May 4 after a rise in COVID-19 cases within the bio bubbles of several teams.

The players got an unscheduled break of two weeks before they left to England to play in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.

IMAGE: Mayank Agarwal's wife Aashita Sood, K L Rahul and Athiya Shetty, Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma and baby Vamika, Ishant Sharma and wife Pratima Singh, Tanya Wadhwa and husband Umesh Yadav enjoy a day out during India's tour of England earlier this year. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anushka Sharma/Instagram

After the WTC final, Indian players got a three-week break before the start of the Test series against England.

After the Test series abruptly ended with the last Test being cancelled because of outbreak of COVID-19 cases amongst the Indian support staff, the players moved from one bio-bubble to another bio-bubble to participate in the second leg of IPL 2021.

There was no respite as just a few days after the conclusion of IPL 2021, the T20 World Cup began in the UAE.

Ravi Shastri, who finished his tenure as India coach after the T20 World Cup, rightly pointed out that the players were physically and mentally drained after being part of bio-bubbles for such long periods of time.

The fatigue, he said, was responsible for India's below-par showing in the World Cup.

'I am mentally drained, but I expect that at my age, but these guys are physically and mentally drained. Six months in a bubble... What we would have ideally liked was a bigger gap between the IPL and the T20 World Cup...(because) when the big games come, when pressure hits you, you are not that switched on as you should be,' Shastri said before India's match against Namibia on Monday.

Shastri felt the team was not in best shape to even try and win games at the T20 World Cup.

'It's not an excuse. We take defeat and we are not scared of losing. In trying to win, you will lose a game, but here we didn't try to win because that X-factor was missing.'

Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, speaking after India's defeat to New Zealand, said the players were fatigued after the constant travelling and being in the bio-bubble.

When asked if the team were fatigued after the IPL season, Bumrah said: 'Absolutely, sometimes you need a break. You miss your family. You've been on the road for six months.

"So, all of that sometimes play on the back of your mind. But when you're on the field, you don't think of all those things ... Obviously staying in a bubble and staying away from your family for such a long period of time does play a role.'

The break from the bio-bubble for the Indian players:

  • Six-day break after Australia tour in January 2021
  • Two-week break from May 4 after the cancellation of IPL 2021 before India's tour of England
  • 21-day break in England after WTC final

The time spent by World Cup players outside the bubble other than the above breaks:

Virat Kohli: Paternity leave from 21-12-2020 to 27-01-2021

Rohit Sharma: Injury break from 11-11-2020 to 18-12-2020

KL Rahul: Injury break from 05-01-2021 to 28-01-2021

Ishan Kishan: 45-day break after IPL 2020 before Syed Mushtaq Ali Tournament. Bubble in February for England series. 40-day break from May 4 after cancellation of IPL. Three-week break after Sri Lanka tour

Surya Kumar Yadav: 45-day break after IPL 2020 before Syed Mushtaq Ali Tournament. Bubble in February for England series. 40-day break from May 4 after cancellation of IPL. Three-week break after Sri Lanka tour

Rishabh Pant: No break

Hardik Pandya: 50-day break after T20Is in Australia in December. 40-day break from May 4. Three-week break after Sri Lanka tour.

Ravindra Jadeja: Injury break for 2 months from January to March 2021

R Ashwin: Two week break in March before IPL. Pulled out of IPL on April 26.

Shardul Thakur: No break

Mohammed Shami: Injury break (in Australia) for about 3 months

Jasprit Bumrah: Two-week break for wedding in March before IPL 2021

Bhuvneshwar Kumar: Injury break for about 2 months from October 2020 before Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. In bubble in February for England series. 40-day break from May 4 after cancellation of IPL before Sri Lanka tour. Three-week break after Sri Lanka tour

Varun Chakravarthy: Injury break for four months after IPL 2020, 40 day break from May 4 after cancellation of IPL. Three-week break after Sri Lanka tour

Rahul Chahar: Two-months break after IPL 2020, 40 day break from May 4 after cancellation of IPL. Three-week break after Sri Lanka tour.

Tournaments/series played by India in the bubble:

Series / Tournament

Matches

Result (for India)

IPL 2020 in UAE

Mumbai Indians won the tournament

India in Australia ODI Series, 2020/21

3

Lost 1-2

India in Australia T20I Series, 2020/21

3

Won 2-1

India in Australia Test Series, 2020/21

4

Won 2-1

England in India Test Series, 2020/21

4

Won 3-1

England in India T20I Series, 2020/21

5

Won 3-2

England in India ODI Series, 2020/21

3

Won 2-1

IPL 2021 in India

Tournament suspended after 29 matches

WTC final in England (v New Zealand), 2021

1

Lost  

India in Sri Lanka ODI Series, 2021

3

Won 2-1

India in Sri Lanka T20I Series, 2021

3

Lost 1-2

Pataudi Trophy (India in England), 2021

4

Won 2-1

IPL 2021 in UAE

Chennai Super Kings won the tournament

T20 World Cup

India knocked out in group stages

What Next For India?

A new era is set to kick off in Indian cricket as the legendary Rahul Dravid takes over as head coach from the coming home series against New Zealand.

India's early exit from the T20 World Cup means the cricketers would get a couple of days off from the bio-bubble before they assemble again for the New Zealand series, starting on November 17.

In their bid to get as many matches played as possible considering the huge price of the broadcast, the BCCI has squeezed in three T20I games in the space of five days against the Kiwis.

That will be followed by a two-Test series with just three days gap ahead of each match.

India will hardly get time to settle down as in another 10 days' time they will head to South Africa, which starts on December 17 and will comprise of three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is till January 26.

IMAGE: Will Coach Rahul Dravid pick the best players for every series in a cramped calendar with India playing back to back series in the next 7-8 months? Photograph: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Another 10 days break follows before India take on the West Indies at home in a three-match ODI and T20I series, with all the six games played in a span of two weeks from February 6 to 20.

And five days later, they will host Sri Lanka in a two-Test and three-match T20I series, with the series ending on March 18.

The players will get a break for a week or so before they will have to report for their respective teams for IPL 2022. Next year's IPL will have 10 teams and 74 matches, meaning more time in the bio-bubble for the players.

IPL 2022 will be followed by a quick five match series against South Africa at home, to be played within a gap of 10 days in June.

In July, India will head to England to play the postponed fifth and final Test match along with a limited overs series of three T20Is and three ODIs, with the six games again somehow inside 10 days from July 7 to 17.

It remains to be seen how the BCCI selectors pick the best players for every series in such a cramped calendar, where the cricketers have openly stated being fatigued by the bio-bubble life due to non-stop cricket.

Will the big brass at the BCCI heed the players' call to have more gaps between matches or will they turn a blind eye?

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RAJNEESH GUPTA and HARISH KOTIAN

New Zealand Tour of India, 2021