Life gets tough as IPL franchises focus on mental health of players

Despite the withdrawal of four players from the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) over the past couple of days due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the franchises say that there are no major problems concerning mental health of the players.

The sudden departure of three Australian players – Andrew Tye (Rajasthan Royals), Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson (both Royal Challengers Bangalore) and R Ashwin (Delhi Capitals) led to speculations that players were feeling the heat of staying in the bio-bubble amid massive daily rise in numbers of Covid-19 cases in India.

Prior to the departure of these players, English player Liam Livingstone (Rajasthan Royals) too had left for his country citing ‘bubble fatigue’.

However, the franchises IANS spoke to are saying that the departure of players is only due to ‘personal reasons’ and not related to mental health. Hence, there is no concern as such.

“If you see, the players who left, they have cited personal reasons. By now, it is evident that the three Aussie players left due to fears that they will be locked out since Australia may restrict flights. It is not related to any mental health issue. Same with Ashwin. It appears that someone in his family is fighting Covid,” said a franchise official.

“Covid is being discussed every single day in meetings and we are aware of the threat. We are trying to bring distraction from it through activities, celebrations of birthdays etc.”

Most franchises are quite open with their players, a couple of officials claimed.

“This is exactly why these four managed to leave the tournament quickly and without delay. Our franchise is very open. The management is very open. If there is any problem with anyone, we have told them, please reach out to us,” said an official of a franchise affected by the departure.

Tye, for example, mentioned the need to go and the Rajasthan franchise arranged for his return without delay. Same was the case with Zampa and Richardson who left as RCB were quick to accept their reasoning.

“There is no point in keeping players who are not in the best mental state to perform,” said the official.

Besides, three of the four players to leave had not played any matches. Only Ashwin was playing. So there doesn’t seem to be much loss to the teams, at least, as of now. Going forward, replacements to rest tired bodies could be required.

The franchises also seem to be going the extra mile.

RR, for example, have also arranged for outsourced services to deal with mental health issues. This is in the event of players not feeling comfortable with in-house arrangements.

“Look, bubble fatigue is hurting players, officials. Everyone is human. But it is handled differently by different teams,” said an official of a team.

Teams such as Mumbai Indians (MI) are able to splurge a lot more than many other franchises which is being deemed a reason behind their players deciding to stay back.

On Sunday, MI pace bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile said he will stay on in India for the full IPL. If Australia stops all flights from India, he will return after spending quarantine period in UAE, Coulter-Nile told The issue facing players like Coulter-Nile is the fear of getting locked out and not much else.

Another of the affected franchises said that they were already anticipating fatigue and saturation, but they have tried their best to keep players fresh with team-building exercises.

“We already were anticipating that bio-bubble saturation would happen because they were playing back-to-back games. We do a lot of team building exercises. But this (the departure of players) is mostly due to personal reasons i.e., borders getting shut,” said the official.

The teams, though, are managing to follow strict protocols.

“There is utmost care. When we travel between venues, although it is bare minimum this time around, we ensure we put double mask, visor besides the PPE (personal protective equipment) kit,” said the official.

It is quite clear though that the franchises have left everything to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and are trusting the apex body in ensuring strict measures and getting through with the IPL.

An official of a franchise, which has not been affected by any player departures, and is currently among the top teams said, “We have not received any requests from players. BCCI is taking steps. As of now, no problem. The boys are happy travelling.”

But how much the second leg will unnerve players remains to be seen. Both venues — Delhi and Ahmedabad — hosting the second leg that has just begun have been badly affected by the pandemic.

A picture of Kane Williamson and David Warner travelling in full PPE kit to Delhi was tweeted by on Tuesday morning. The players’ reactions though were hardly visible as they were covered from head to toe.