Ahead of domestic season kickoff, Laxman asks players to follow protocols in bio-bubble

As BCCI gears up to host the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, VVS Laxman says it is important for the players to get accustomed to the bio-bubble and look at it as a positive step. 

VVS Laxman during a training session with Bengal cricketers in Kolkata.   -  CAB Media

It has been a challenging year for India's domestic cricketers. With the COVID-19 bringing sporting activities to a halt, most cricketers missed out on training sessions for almost nine months.

But now as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gears up to host the first domestic tournament of the season - Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy - former India batsman VVS Laxman believes that it is important for the players to get accustomed to the bio-bubble and look at it as a positive step. 

As the mentor of Sunrisers Hyderabad, Laxman was in the United Arab Emirates for nearly three months inside a bio-bubble during the Indian Premier League, and those experiences have made him realise that it is important to overcome the odds and focus on the game.

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“They (the cricketers) should just go out there and play to the best of their abilities. What really surprised me during the IPL and also during the camp with the Bengal cricketers, is that all of them are well prepared. That’s a positive,” Laxman told Sportstar from Hyderabad on Monday.

Last week, he was in Kolkata for a camp with the Bengal cricketers and was excited to see them back in action. “Ahead of the IPL preparatory camp, I was apprehensive about the rhythm of the players, but even during the lockdown, they had prepared in their own way. It's same for Bengal boys as well. I was impressed with the way they are batting or bowling. That shows how desperate all of them are to showcase their skills in important tournaments like Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the IPL,” he said.

“They have to approach the tournament with a positive mindset and not think about what they missed out on because of COVID. Rather, they should think about what awaits them now. Luckily, they are going to have a tournament, and there’s nothing better than that. So, they have to treat it from that perspective,” Laxman, who is a consultant for Cricket Association of Bengal’s Vision Project, said.

Follow the protocol

While all the teams have already started training, it is going to be a new experience for most players when they enter the bio-bubble. And staying inside such an environment for nearly a month won’t be easy.

“The players who are in the bubble should understand the importance and the reason why the bubble has been created. They have to just follow the protocols and guidelines which are laid down. After all, it’s for their safety and well being, so once they understand that, things will fall in place,” Laxman said.

“The way the IPL was conducted, I am sure the BCCI will do a professional job to make sure that the well being of all the domestic cricketers are taken care of. It is mandatory to follow the guidelines. Once that’s done, automatically, the entire focus of the team management and the players will be on the game. They don’t want to be distracted by someone testing positive because that will lead to a lot of chaos and confusion.”

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According to Laxman, the ‘fundamental difference’ between the past and the new normal is the fact that the players cannot step out of the bubble - which could get tiresome at times. 

“Players usually go for a meal, relax after the games. But now, they have to be in the hotel always. But they understand that they are at least being able to play a tournament, so that should motivate them.”

“As far as the game is concerned, nothing changes. They will still have training and all other facilities will be available,” Laxman said.

Professional approach

During the IPL, the teams reached the UAE in mid-August and initially found it challenging to keep the players motivated. But things eased out soon. So, what did the teams do to make the players feel at home?

“It was tough, but there was regular counselling (for the players). We had a team doctor and the BCCI was professional in the way the tests were done every four days. As the tournament progressed, the players too got accustomed to it,” Laxman explained.

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“They were playing very well and they were practising hard. The hotel had a team room, exclusive restaurant, and the franchises ensured that the players were relaxed and had a feel good vibe. There were a lot of activities planned for them. So, the bottom line is - the players understood why they were going through all that. And that really helped.”

Taking one step at a time

But there will be 38 teams in action for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scheduled to begin on January 10. How challenging will it be for the BCCI and the host associations to manage things?

“While it is a big tournament, they have got six venues. Each venue will host seven teams. In Kolkata, there will be two hotels, which will accommodate the teams and all those hotels have necessary safety measures, so I do not think conducting such a tournament will be a problem,” he said.

Last week, Laxman was in Kolkata for a camp with the Bengal cricketers and was excited to see them back in action.   -  CAB Media

 

“As far as monitoring the players is concerned, I am sure the hotels will be given strict instructions so that none of the players can break the bubble. The BCCI is capable enough to monitor and conduct the tournament,” Laxman said, hoping that this leads the way for other domestic tournaments, particularly the Ranji Trophy.

“They are taking it step by step. The first is Mushtaq Ali and I am confident that once everything goes through, automatically the other tournaments can also be conducted. The BCCI will work out the time frame - especially before the IPL.”