The human race was fighting for survival and with the development of vaccines, a barrier to counter and curtail the accelerated spread of the disease was fortunately discovered.
Sports and recreational activities came to a sudden halt and cricket finally saw the light of day after six months of isolated silence. An innovative way to get cricket back was to create a bubble, with everyone associated physically being put into a safety net. Cricketers, similar to all the other sportsmen and women, were pining to get back to the field. They were thrilled when they could do so and therefore, were ready to accept any terms or conditions put forth to get their adrenalin pumping again. The lack of spectators and the strict Bio-safety bubble requirements were readily accepted and a sigh of relief adorned the faces of each one of them.
Cricket made a phenomenal return and cricketers were back where they belonged, in the middle of a lush green field. The vaccination drive around the world took shape and people, thereafter, came out of their safe environment ready to take a risk to get their life back on track.
Cricket was soon being played all over the world, with precautionary measures and curtailed interaction.
Humans are social beings and confinement and restricting of one’s activities brought into prominence adverse emotions that one had never encountered before. The contained situation finally gave way and with restrictions and movements being opened up in most countries around the world, the cricket bubble has in some way, burst. Cricketers, as many have indicated in their interviews and social media outbursts, have been affected rather seriously. They are now willing to step down from playing for their country and representing themselves at World Cups and even in lucrative financial leagues such as the Indian Premier League.
The best cricket all-rounder at present, Ben Stokes, is an example of the mental trauma that cricketers are facing and he has made clear the reason for his absence from the game is mental exhaustion. So have many others too. Several of the English cricket team members are willing to excuse themselves, if the Bio-Bubble and quarantine restrictions are enforced by Australia when they visit down-under to play in the prestigious Ashes. An Australia versus England duel that has been in existence since 1877 and one that every English and Australian cricketer aspires to be a part of and remembered for in their cricket career.
The Indian cricketers, thankfully, have shown excellent resilience, being on the road for nearly 8 months. Being away in a 5 star comfort may look rosy to some, but to live and socialize day and night amongst only one’s fellow cricketers can be quite taxing. One can well imagine the mental exhaustion that the Indian International players are going through. The abundance of cricket played in the year is giving them no time to relax, rejoice or even recoup. Cricket is a passion for all of them and the hard work to reach the top level itself is an arduous journey. The multi-media and digital world is giving them well earned exposure, but, it has also hounding each one of them 24/7. They are being scrutinized and analyzed like never before. An Indian cricketer today has become a prized bull who is expected to perform at all times. Apart from the very seniors, the slightest whimper or a break from the game for any of the others, could put one many places down in the pecking order.
Captaining a cricket side has also become a very serious affair in the Covid infected world that we live in. The stepping down of Virat Kohli from Indian captaincy in the T20 is just the beginning, one feels, of his unloading his responsibility as an Indian captain in all formats of the game. One can very well understand the additional pressures as the leader of the vibrant Indian side in these tough Covid times. The Bio-secured bubble has given him no opportunity to break free from his daily routine of focusing, planning, organizing, strategizing and taking control of every aspect of the game. Virat is the man at the helm and therefore his responsibilities are far more than the rest. He needs to always be correct and at his best behaviour at all times as well as be the father figure to encourage and advise each member of his team.
For anyone to do this in an isolated and strictly restricted environment for such a long period of time can be mentally exhausting. This could be one of the factors that has affected Virat Kohli’s batting. The pressure of being the leader in this controlled environment could be mentally exhausting and constraining him from performing at his best.
Indian and world cricket needs him to fire on all cylinders and for all to enjoy his brilliance. Therefore, Indian cricket also needs the bubble to burst so that the players and fans can enjoy cricket like before.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)