IPL 2020: Return Of The Indian Superstars, Locked In A Bio-Bubble

Two days, yes, we are essentially two sleeps away from the 13th season of the Indian Premier League. Originally scheduled to be held in March, this season was put on hold owing to the Coronavirus pandemic and when England showed the way by holding three series, and by literally locking the players up in a bio-bubble, the BCCI too decided to take the plunge and hold the IPL, not in India, but in the UAE.

Indian cricket fans, scratch that, starved Indian cricket fans will get to see cricket and wow, perhaps no IPL has ever seen this anticipation.

“We were all so bothered and we all kept complaining that there is too much cricket going on – and well, now there was absolutely no cricket, and then we started realising how much we missed the game, how much we miss sports. We realised that sports is not just something we see, sports is an intrinsic part of our lives. And hence, this IPL promises to be special, it promises to deliver action, it promises the Indian crowd to forget their woes, to forget the troubles caused by this pandemic and watch cricket, watch sports in the evenings and even if they are all alone, they can always bond over a cricket match. There will be banter, there will be combinations and boy, Indians will get Indian superstars out on a cricket field playing cricket. Perhaps, the escape, perhaps the refuge the country wants right now,” said a sports journalist when asked about why this IPL feels special.

And yet, when you look around there will be emptiness and this emptiness will be quite literal. No crowds, players will not need to scream their guts out, the only cheer they will encounter will be from the dressing rooms.

“Ahh, yes. Crowds and rollicking Indian fans have been the spice of the IPL. This season is neither in India, nor there will be crowds. Players will feel strange, broadcasters will feel strange, the people watching on their TVs will feel strange, but hey, these are strange times. When the ball is bowled and when the matches get close, people want isolation, so let us see this like this – bereft of crowds, this season might be more intimate, it will be between fans gaping on at their TV screens and players slogging it out on the field. The noise, the frenetic chants and the raucous roar will be missing, but cricket is back. New normal and all that, as they say,” one of my friends, who thinks this season will be rather special, said.

This then takes us to another important and novel concept – the bio-bubble. Things are slowly limping back to normalcy; places are opening up and people are moving around. However, the threat of the virus still looms large and there is no way, one can shrug the risk off. England and the West Indies have shown that tournaments can be held if there is astute planning in place. The Caribbean Premier League was successful and England hosted West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia without any hiccup.

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Players will need to be isolated, follow all the norms and adhere to the rules of the bio-bubble and this will test their mental strength, their resolve and above all, how they adapt and adjust to staying alone for around two months.

"The good thing is that, as cricketers, you have an opportunity to play in a safe environment where we are trying to minimise risks. It's new to all of us. As a sportsperson, you tend to adapt to whatever situations you are in," Kings XI Punjab director of cricket operations Anil Kumble was quoted as saying by the Times of India.

"The most important aspect one needs to look at is the anxiety factor. Everybody is anxious. They want to go out and play. You have to sort of pull them back because it's been four months of not doing enough and you cannot go out there and put in your 100% from day one. It's going to be tough for the players to get match ready, we'll build up to it,” he went on to add.