Ever since the resumption of international cricket post COVID-19 hiatus, the players have been forced to stay in bio-bubbles, where their movement is confined to just hotels and stadiums.
No wonder, cricketers are finding it mentally challenging and many of them have only spoken about it.
Recently, India all-rounders Krunal Pandya and Hardik Pandya opened up on the challenges of being a cricketer in these unprecedented times.
"It is difficult. When you are playing at the highest level, there is also the constant pressure of performance as well. When you are playing at the highest level, when you're playing for your country, when you're playing for your franchise team, the pressure of performance is always there. Whether you do well or whether you don't do well. We are going through this stuff (Covid situation) and there's this bio bubble as well. So it's mentally challenging," Krunal told TOI Sportscast.
When asked what keeps the players motivated in bubbles for extended period, Hardik replied: "The one thing that always motivated us (while being in strict bio-bubbles) was that we were able to play cricket. We were able to bring smiles to so many faces.”
“As cricketers when we are playing IPL for instance, when we used to play our game, obviously we were busy. But when we don't have the game (not playing), we actually look forward to watching a game. For people it brought so much happiness. When the IPL is over, lots of people don't know what to watch. (People say) 7 baje ka to adat ho gaya, ab kya karein? (we have got used to watching the IPL at 7 pm, now what do we watch?). We feel the same. The funny part is we feel the same. IPL khatam hota hai to lagta hai 7 baje kuch ayega nahin (when the IPL is over we feel like there's nothing to do when it's 7pm)," he further explained.
Mental health is another aspect that sportspersons have to deal with. Over the last two years, many leading cricketers, including Australia’s Glenn Maxwell, have openly spoken about it. In fact, Maxwell had taken a break from the game in 2019 to deal with mental health issues.
According to Krunal, the pressure of performing with consistency was already there and the bio-bubble life has made things even more difficult.
"I have been in both situations. When you are doing well, it's fine, because you are in a bubble to do a certain thing and that thing is going well, in terms of your cricket. But, at the same time when things are not going your way and you are limited to that bubble, it takes a toll. It is difficult and every individual has their own way of dealing with those situations. But it is difficult. Sometimes, yes, we see that staying in a 5 star hotel, playing, coming on TV, but at the same time there is a lot of hard work (that goes in) behind it. There are a lot of battles we fight within ourselves." Krunal said.
Pandya brothers were last seen in action for Mumbai Indians during the IPL 2021, which was suspended last month due to COVID-19 cases inside the bio-bubbles of multiple franchises. They will return to action during the white-ball series against Sri Lanka next month.
(With TOI inputs)