There was undeniable fear once COVID-19 found its way into IPL’s bio-bubble, some Indian players who participated in the recently-suspended T20 league have revealed with a couple of them also asserting that it wasn’t as “tight” as it was last year. The world’s biggest T20 league was forced to suspend proceedings indefinitely on Tuesday after four players and two coaches tested positive for COVID-19.
PTI spoke to some participants in the league to get an insight into the bio-bubble this year and how the dynamics changed after cases came to light inside it.
A player, who did not wish to be named, said that it wasn’t as secure as it was in the UAE, where not a single case cropped up during tournament-proper even though there were some who tested positive before it got rolling.
“Though teams and BCCI tried their best, the bubble was much tighter in the UAE. Here you could see people coming and going even though they were on different floors. I saw some use the pool also. Then practice facilities were also far away,” he said.
Sreevats Goswami, a former India U-19 World Cup winner who has played in IPL since its inception, said he does not suspect any player or support staff of violating the COVID-19 SOPs. He was playing for SunRisers Hyderabad.
“We were well taken care of inside the bubble. None of the players or support staff breached it. But once the virus entered, I will not deny, everyone panicked and the foreigners especially. You can’t really help it,” he said.
“I know I am a sportsman with good immunity. God forbid, if I contract the virus, I would recover. But what if as an asymptomatic carrier, I give it to my aged parents…When virus entered, most players were scared because you don’t want your family to get affected,” he recalled.
India’s COVID case count breached the 4 lakh mark once again on Thursday and the daily deaths hovered close to 4,000. The desperate cries for hospital beds, oxygen and crucial medicines outside the IPL bubble caused global outrage and an outpouring of support.
IPL cricketers knew and understood the pain, according to Goswami and said the foreign recruits were left fearing for their own safety after they saw images of suffering on social media.
“Obviously you are not oblivious to what’s happening on the outside. When you see people dying because of lack of oxygen, hospitals running out of bed, you feel. For the foreigners, obviously it was scary, what they saw and read on Twitter,” he said.
“We Indian players would try to comfort them that don’t worry things will be okay. Some of them were like ‘what if we get COVID over here? Will our health insurance policy work?” he revealed.
Goswami’s team featured players from both Australia and New Zealand. While the Australians have left, New Zealand players will fly out on Friday.
And amid all this, there were discussions on whether the league should even continue.
“There were contrasting views among players and support staff on what was happening outside. Some wanted the IPL to go on, some didn’t. And when the virus did enter the bubble, there was uneasiness…,” said the unnamed cricketer.
“The foreign players were professional throughout, they were just worried about how they would get home.”
Cricketer-turned-commentator Deep Dasgupta refused to call the IPL bubble porous but did admit to having anxieties of his own once cases began to rise in Delhi.
“I wouldn’t say bio bubble created this time was porous compared to last time in UAE. We were well taken care of and I felt secure,” he said.
“However, as the cases started rising in Delhi, I was a bit wary. Once you saw how people were suffering, it was disturbing. Also I was tense as my parents still live in Noida. So I was always thinking about them,” he added.
“Once cases started rising in Kolkata, then it was my wife and kids that I was thinking about. But they would tell me that you take care, we are just doing fine.”
Another player said the bubble seemed secure when the tournament started but not as much after that.
“It (Bubble) was good only at the start. But no one knows how COVID entered,” he said, requesting not to be named.
Another player, who requested anonymity, said he didn’t feel too anxious even when cases were reported in the bubble and neither did the foreigners who were a part of his team.
“We were normal. There was no anxiety or fear, not even among the foreign players,” asserted the promising domestic cricketer, who had a decent outing in the league.
Apart from the virus fear, there was also the bubble fatigue that players were battling, something which prompted England’s Liam Livingstone to leave early.
Goswami said moving from one bubble to another isn’t easy on anyone.
“Bubble life can be boring and repetitive…I have been a part of four bubbles. IPL last year followed by Syed Mushtaq Ali, Vijay Hazare Trophy and this IPL…with my wife around, it was easier but for the younger lot it is far more difficult,” said the 31-year-old.
“There are only as many Netflix web series or films that you can watch…when you are left to do nothing, you start thinking, introspecting, at times negative thoughts might creep in.
“Isolation or hard quarantine is the most difficult part. 10 days seem like a month. If your hotel room has balcony then you are a privileged man as you can at least enjoy the morning sun or if nothing else be a star gazer. For others it’s like traveling in a bus, enclosed.”
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