Concerns about mental strain as Proteas prepare to enter bio bubble for the first time
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s men’s cricket team will enter an environment very different from anything many of the players would have encountered when they go into the ‘bio bubble’ next week for the limited overs series’ against England.
For those not involved in the Indian Premier League, the novelty factor might energise them for the few weeks that the 50-over world champions are in the country, but it is what happens weeks and months down the line, as the Proteas catch up on their schedule, that is concerning. “This is unchartered territory,” the SA Cricketers Association, CEO Andrew Breetzke said on Monday.
The first of three T20 Internationals between South Africa and England takes place at Newlands on November 27, starting a very busy program for the men’s national team, that will include three ODIs against England, a pair of Tests over the festive season against Sri Lanka, a tour to Pakistan, a home series against Australia and a limited overs series against Pakistan next April, in South Africa.
That’s a lot of tough cricket in a short space of time, all in a bio secure environment that will put firm restrictions on players movements and who they can interact with.
The psychological effects are something no one can predict. “It’s going to be a massive challenge,”said sports psychologist, Henning Gericke, who worked with the Proteas at the 2011 World Cup. “Some players will cope better than others, but it’s going to ask a lot of the management; they will need to be creative about how they get families involved through modern technology and ensure that there is a good balance throughout the day so that is not just cricket, cricket, cricket.”
Saca is engaged in talks with Cricket SA’s Director of Cricket Graeme Smith, regarding concerns for the players’ welfare. Initially Breetzke said the novelty factor will mean the restrictions won’t have a huge effect, but as the season unfolds and players enter one ‘bio bubble’ after another, it will be draining.
A lot of knowledge will be sourced from the England side, which played out an entire international home season in an environment in which movement and contact with people was limited. Joe Root, the England Test captain, said in a recent interview with The Cricket Weekly magazine in the UK that it wasn’t easy.
"Playing in the bubble does wear you down, being away from family, being in such a high-intensity environment for such a long time,” Root remarked.
The likes of Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and Anrich Nortje will share their experiences of the IPL bubble with teammates, but they will have to be monitored closely given the amount of time they’ve spent away - nearly three months.
It is quite likely that they may not feature in all six matches against the English just to give them some respite and keep them fresh for a very busy season that lies ahead.
“Some players will cope better than others; the trick is to know them well enough to find ways to support them mentally and emotionally, find ways to get families involved and to help them,”said Gericke. “If one or two players are not coping it could affect the whole team, so the management needs to be aware of that.”
New North American broadcast deal
Meanwhile, on Monday Cricket SA announced a deal with US-based cricket broadcaster, Willow TV International Inc. which will see the Proteas Men’s and Women’s cricketing teams’ matches broadcast across the USA, Canada and Mexico.