Bio-bubble fatigue: BCCI will take the lead in resting players

TAKING NOTE of comments from top Indian cricket stars, such as Virat Kohli, about exhaustion due to playing in bio-bubbles without adequate breaks, the BCCI will now assess and decide on the workload management of players — before the selectors pick a team.

The Indian Express has learnt that new coach Rahul Dravid will be part of this process along with BCCI secretary Jay Shah. Dravid had referred to player fatigue as an issue to be addressed when he appeared before the Cricket Advisory Committee earlier this month.

Until now, the selectors used to take a call on players to be rested for a series. But with fatigue being listed as one of the key reasons for the team’s early exit from the T20 World Cup, sources said the BCCI wants to prevent bio-bubbles from taking a toll on the mental well-being of overworked players.

On Tuesday, Kohli was rested along with other senior players, like Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja, for the three-match T20 series against New Zealand starting November 17 in Jaipur. And Rohit Sharma was officially made India’s new T20 captain in place of Kohli.

“The BCCI will decide on which player needs to be rested depending on how much cricket is being played. We are aware of the fatigue issue. The player who has been rested will get his place back in the team even if the replacement does well,” a BCCI official told The Indian Express.

As part of this process, the team’s trainer will submit a players’ fitness report for Dravid to assess and discuss with Shah before a team is selected.

Keeping the television broadcaster in mind, the teams fielded for a series will not be second-string sides. For example, India’s top three in T20 Internationals, Sharma, KL Rahul and Kohli, are unlikely to be given a break together for the same series.

The core of the Indian team for the T20 World Cup has been on the road since June. These players, including Sharma, Kohli, Bumrah and Jadeja, were in action during the World Test Championship followed by the Test series against England and the IPL in the UAE.

The next few months have a packed schedule, too.

There is a home series against New Zealand, which comprises three T20 Internationals and two Test matches, which starts later this month. In December, India will travel to South Africa to play three Tests, three ODIs, and four T20s.

In February, soon after the South Africa series, India will play three ODIs and three T20s against the West Indies. Five days after that series ends on February 20, India take on Sri Lanka in another encounter till March 18, followed by the next IPL.

After the World T20, outgoing coach Ravi Shastri had said that life in a bio-bubble can leave players drained and affect performance in high-pressure games. Shastri also attributed Kohli’s dip in form to being in a bio-bubble for extended periods. “I don’t read too much into Virat’s form. I don’t care who the player is. If you put even Don Bradman in the bubble, his average will come down. Eventually, the bubble will burst,” he said.

Left-arm spinner Axar Patel had complained of bubble fatigue and was given permission to go home from the UAE, a day before India played Afghanistan at the T20 World Cup. Patel was a stand-by for the tournament.

Ahead of the T20 World Cup game against Pakistan in which India was outplayed, Kohli had called for a balanced approach to workload management. “I understand we’ve lost some time without cricket (during the pandemic) but in trying to cover that up, if you lose players then world cricket is not going to be better off. So there has to be a balance in the future,” he said.

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