Last year, when cricketers from India and all over the world landed in the UAE and began quarantining themselves for the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), it was a first-of-its-kind for those participating in the season.
Seven months into it – two big series against Australia and England, and another season of the IPL back for cricket fans to feast on – most cricketers have become quite professional in handling the pros & cons of life in isolation.
📸 𝘼𝙖𝙥𝙡𝙞 𝙏𝙚𝙖𝙢 𝙍𝙤𝙤𝙢 📸Set a reminder for 10 AM tomorrow, Paltan! ⏰@surya_14kumar is going to take you all on an ex… https://t.co/qxB43xbYe8
— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) 1617730090000
For some it’s been a constant state of living on the edge, for others it’s been a learning experience. Some have tried getting accustomed to it, and then some who still find each single day a ‘pain’ to deal with.
So, what exactly is a cricketer’s life like, inside a bio-bubble?
Here are a few pointers – first-hand – to understand exactly what a cricketer’s life has been like these last seven to eight months in strict bio-bubbles:
* A bio-bubble doesn’t begin to form after the players of a certain team start getting together. It begins at least a week in advance before the players and support staff start arriving. Hotel rooms are sanitised, staff – preferably – goes into quarantine inside the hotel, access points like the swimming pools, gymnasiums, garden areas and restaurants are kept isolated and protocols are drafted to understand the dos and don’ts for every individual to follow before the process of checking into the hotel begins.
We were just playing the fly on the wall during this conversation as @SteveSmith49 and @MStoinis got out of quarant… https://t.co/8zKFvF2WO1
— Delhi Capitals (@DelhiCapitals) 1617892195000
* The day of checking into a hotel is not considered ‘Day One’ of quarantine. Some franchises have followed this rule while some haven’t. ‘Day One’ of quarantining begins the day after a team has checked in. From then on, the regimental seven or 14 days quarantine – depending on the protocol of the event/organisers- is counted.
* Staying in isolation for 14 days is extremely tough. Even seven days, in fact. Living inside four walls can drive anybody to the edge, feel suffocated and allow serious levels of frustration to seep in. Rooms cannot be shared. There’s no room service or housekeeping either. Lunches and dinners are required to be had with plastic or wooden spoons. A room with a balcony is considered palatial.
Quarantine da khatam khel, bahar aa gaye tuhadde favourite – Chris Gayle 🕺🥰#IPL2021 #SaddaPunjab #PunjabKings… https://t.co/7i8v1noXDK
— Punjab Kings (@PunjabKingsIPL) 1617792938000
* For those who have a habit of reading, time has gone by relatively quicker. There are some who have relied on meditation and yoga to beat loneliness. Cricketers who are extremely conscious of their fitness and enjoy their gym training more than the others have tried carrying their equipment. There are a few who had Play Stations fitted to their television screens. Some have binged-watched shows on OTT platforms. One cricketer, in fact, says he’s watched “insane amounts of old cricket” on YouTube.
* A lot depends on how the franchises have gone about choosing their hotels and resorts. Some, like the Mumbai Indians, have checked into a resort where players have been given individual villas. Some, like Punjab Kings for instance, have decided to stay a little further away from the stadium but close to “decent” practice facilities. Some, like the Knight Riders, chose to travel an hour every day for practice, but having selected a training venue that’s been cut-off from public in general, very private and secure. To each his own.
P🎱🎱L & GAMES – The #MI way! 🤩Take a look at how our team is bonding off the field ahead of the #IPL2021 💙… https://t.co/UvmjhS8rXY
— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) 1617683400000
* Open-air areas have been a blessing. Staying inside air-conditioned rooms and hotel lobbies for long periods has been looked upon as “unhealthy”. Therefore, exclusivity in terms of access to swimming pools, restaurants and garden areas – which other guests staying in the hotel don’t have access to – has been a priority. Some have made it possible to the best possible extent, some less so.
* Experience of having spent time in bio-bubbles already has allowed players to come prepared this time for IPL 2021. Travelling with families, carrying ‘comfort food’ from home, indulging in board games at common areas specifically designed for players to meet and greet and more have helped “kill” time.
* One of the biggest advantages of a bio-bubble has been that it has brought cricketers and their families closer to each other off-the-field. With more time on hand, the general chatter has been “non-cricketing” too. Extra time also meant that the franchises could help find their players more time to connect with fans on social media handles.
* ‘Distraction’ has been the name of the game. Most haven’t complained because they understand what a bio-bubble is all about and why it’s been so necessary. Some haven’t come to terms with it but do, privately, realise they’d rather be inside the bubble than outside, considering the riches an IPL season brings along.
* Planning the right menu has been a crucial factor. Players from across the length and breadth of the country and the world are sharing the bubble with each other. Understanding each other’s food habits, likes and dislikes, the joy of sharing, the happiness in helping each other understand their culture and exchanging notes – it’s been a life schedule these cricketers never thought they would see until the pandemic forced certain changes to be made.
With a packed cricket season coming up from now to the end of the year, and the second wave of Covid-19 in India looking more menacing than the first, it clearly seems that life inside a bio-bubble is going to be around for a while.