Virat Kohli says cricketers are suffering after months of bio-secure “bubble” life during the coronavirus pandemic as they head into the high-stress environment of the Indian Premier League. Kohli, one of the game’s most disciplined captains, raised his concerns after his India side edged England by seven runs in a thrilling decider to clinch the one-day series 2-1 in Pune on Sunday. Players from both the sides moved on immediately to join their squads for the world’s richest franchise Twenty20 tournament, which starts on April 9, and all will have to go through restrictions again in the IPL “bubble”.
“Scheduling needs to be looked at in future, because playing in ‘bubbles’ for so long, two to three months, is going to be very, very difficult going forward,” Kohli said.
“You can’t expect everyone to be at the same level of mental strength. Some times you do get cooked and you do feel like a bit of a change.
“I am sure things will be discussed and things will change in the future as well.
“But a different tournament, it brings fresh challenges heading into the IPL.”
Most international players have been restricted to staying inside bio-secure “bubbles” since August, with only small breaks.
From September until January, India’s players went through similar quarantine and isolation regimes in the delayed 2020 IPL in the UAE and their tour of Australia before having a short break ahead of the home England series which comprised four Tests, five Twenty20 matches and three one-day internationals.
England’s rest-and-rotate policy ensured players had breaks during their three months touring Sri Lanka, where they played two Tests, and India.
Bubble and back
England beat Sri Lanka 2-0 but went down to India 3-1 in Tests and 3-2 in the Twenty20 series.
England players including Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (both Rajasthan Royals), Jonny Bairstow (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Sunday’s batting hero Sam Curran (Chennai Super Kings) are staying on to join the IPL.
Buttler said he was “excited” to take part in the tournament which lasts until May 30. He said England management had kept players in top mental and physical shape.
“It’s been great that everyone’s health has been really looked after and whenever it’s possible to get out of the ‘bubble’ and back in,” said Buttler, who stood in as captain for injured Eoin Morgan in the last two one-day internationals.
“So we are all very thankful of that to help with those situations and also it’s about how we plan moving forward. That’s going to be part of player welfare.”
Curran, who said he had come back “refreshed” after going home during the four Tests, hit a valiant unbeaten 95 in the final ODI.
“It’s another learning series for me, really enjoyed it and I feel like it has given me lot of confidence going into the IPL,” said Curran after his man-of-the-match performance just failed to produce a stunning victory for England who had fallen to 200-7 chasing 330 to win.
England, who have already played six Tests in 2021, have an intensive calendar ahead and are scheduled to play another 12 Tests by January 2022, five at home against India, two against New Zealand and five away Ashes Tests in Australia.
They will also have limited-overs series at home against Sri Lanka and Pakistan before they return to India for the Twenty20 World Cup in October.