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Cricket as a sport has seen many highs and lows since its inception and despite being 112 years old, the game continues to adapt and evolve globally. From rain ruined encounters to the unavailability of floodlights in its initial days, the game has suffered many arduous challenges. And the challenge looming over it currently is none other than the pandemic that has incited panic globally, the Covid-19.
Since the outbreak of this deadly pandemic, like other sports, cricket is being played under a special hosting arrangement termed as a “Bio-secure environment.”
Thus making ‘Bio-secure bubble’ and ‘Bio-secure fatigue’ most heard words linked with all forms of cricket be it at the international level or leagues like PSL and IPL.
The prime reason behind this ‘secure’ bubble was the outbreak of this pandemic which demanded adequate precautionary measures to be taken in order to let the game progress as scheduled.
What is the Bio-Secure Bubble?
To make it easy, this term can simply be put as the secure perimeter in which the entire crew including the players, staff, broadcasters, officials, and all related parties which are in any way linked to that particular series or tournament, stay in order to avoid any physical interaction with the outside world.
Despite all this, a bubble too may not be risk-free, but it can minimize the risk of contracting the virus to a great extent if the norms are followed strictly.
Where is a Bio-secure environment created?
A bio-secure bubble typically consists of multiple locations, preferably close to each other. Player accommodation (hotel etc), training centers, and stadiums all are made of this bubble, and screening and testing every individual before entering the bubble is a mandatory prerequisite. The players are denied access to the general public thus making chances of any breach minimal.
How does a player enter the Bio-Bubble?
A player or any other related member will be tested at the time of departure from its home country. Once clearing the PCR test, he will be cleared to fly and reach the destination where he will be tested again and will restrict his movement in a room until negative results are declared.
First International Series in Bio-Secure Environment
Back in July 2020 when West Indies toured England, this was the first time the entire cricketing world witnessed a match being played in a bio-secure environment. Playing under the new normal was difficult for players as they were bound to follow strict rules and regulations. Fortunately, no one was tested positive in that series.
West Indies won the first test by 4 wickets thanks to Jermaine Blackwood but lost the series 2-1 after England bounced back to win the remaining 2 test matches comprehensively.
5 Times When Breaches of Bio-Secure Bubble Occurred
As the “new normal” surfaced throughout the cricket structure and cricket resumed in strictly bounded rules, the cricketers felt the heat, and few were unable to cope with it.
1- The first incident took place when Jofra Archer was penalized for breaching the bubble, as he left for a home during the tour after the first test, resulting in his exclusion from the second test.
2. The second incident of the breach took place when Pakistan Cricket Team toured New Zealand and incidents of players having food together and violating the norms were reported which almost caused the tour to be called off but luckily, it wasn’t.
3. Another incident surfaced during South Africa vs England series when a South African player was tested positive indicating a breach of the bubble. The first three ODI’s were called off due to this incident and later the whole tour of England was scrubbed due to the spike in cases.
4. Brisbane Heats opener Chris Lynn along with other cricketers was also fined for breaching the covid protocols. The Australian opener took a selfie with a fan and also traveled in a taxi during the BBL.
5. Rohit Sharma along with other star cricketers came under the scanner as a video surged seeing them sitting in a restaurant which caused suspect of breaching Australia’s bio-secure bubble.
Cricketers’ reaction to Bio-secure Bubble
Eoin Morgan and Jason Holder have warned that it is “untenable” to assume from players to spend prolonged intervals in lockdown in reaction to bio-secure bubbles. While each mentioned their fortune in being capable of pursuing their careers at a time others had been dropping their jobs, they did warn that the effect on gamers’ intellectual fitness could bring about more of them pulling out of stints as “excessive burnout” has become an issue.
When it comes to mental health, Pakistani cricketers are least vocal and seem to be least concerned about it. But it was Shaan Masood who was quoted saying, “Spending fourteen days to yourself and never leaving the room isn’t easy, but it’s up to the individual to look at everything from a positive slant.” The test opener termed this life under quarantine a ‘challenge’.
The Indian Captain Virat Kohli took a step ahead and said these measures get you ‘cooked’ sometimes. Kohli asserted, “One can’t expect everybody to be at an equivalent level of psychological state. Yes, you do get cooked at times”
The anguish and fury in certain cricketers can be imagined by Tabrez Shamsi’s tweet in which the South African spinner expressed his grief of not getting adequate time to spend with family. The wrist-spinner in a tweet lamented his life under quarantine by comparing it to that of ‘caged circus animals’ who are only taken out to please the crowds.
Bio-secure Bubble and its Future
The world hasn’t yet recovered from the havocs of the covid-19 and it’s a sad reality that despite receiving a harsh response from some circles of cricketing fraternity, boards will have to succumb to this technology as a necessary evil. But yes, there is always room for improvement.
Scheduling tours with adequate gaps and alternate squads for different tours can be the measures used to counter the otherwise inevitable bubble fatigue.
Written by Syed Asad Jawed. M Tahir Mehmood, and Abdul Manan