'Happiness is having good people around you', read the caption of an image shared by cricketer Sachin Baby on his Instagram page in which he was seen posing with Team India skipper Virat Kohli and wife Anushka Sharma. The photograph was clicked during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 which was suspended amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Sachin, who was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) captained by Kohli for his base price of Rs 20 lakh in the IPL 2021 Player Auction, was in various bio-secure bubbles and hubs since the beginning of the year until the suspension of the IPL earlier this month.
The 32-year-old southpaw hailing from Thodupuzha in Idukki district has opened up on his experience of living within the confines of the bio-secure bubble and how it has helped create stronger bonds like never before among players.
"I have been really busy with cricket in the last couple of years. I was playing one tournament after the other in the domestic circuit. It was then the first nation-wide lockdown was imposed. To be honest, I really enjoyed that forced break. It was for the first time in the last few years that I got a chance to stay with my family for a prolonged period. I’m glad that I could spend quality time with my wife Anna and son Steve.
My first bio-bubble experience was with the Kerala team when we took part in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 Tournament held in Mumbai in January. After that we participated in the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day championship which was played across two venues in Bengaluru and Delhi. It was mandatory for all the players and support staff to follow the protocols and live in a bio-secure bubble for five days at each venue. We had to confine ourselves to the hotel room, practice areas and team buses, to avoid infection. We were not allowed to step out of our rooms. Television and mobile phone were the only sources of entertainment. We would open the door only to take the food kept outside the room. Players were allowed to attend training sessions with a negative RT-PCR test report. Despite all these troubles, Kerala could perform well in both the tournaments.
Bio-bubble protocols are applicable to every player, be it Virat Kohli or Sachin Baby. All players would have to undergo COVID-19 test before entering a bubble. They would be tested again once the isolation period is over. During the IPL, each player had to go through the same testing procedure one in two days. Nasal swab samples are collected by pushing a thin, plastic swab three to four inches along the floor of the nasal passage into one nostril. Initially, I found it really annoying.
I have undergone over 75 COVID-19 tests over the past five months. Luckily, I have escaped the virus so far.
Previously, it was the responsibility of the hotel management to take care of our cricket gear that includes bats, pads, gloves, helmets etc. The strict COVID protocols meant we had to literally carry our own weight.
Returning to the RCB camp was like coming home after a long trip. As I had played for them before, I did not feel any tension and could easily mingle with every member of the squad. There were many including skipper Kohli with whom I had played alongside during my previous stint with RCB. One of the main players to join RCB this season was Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. He came across as a very interesting and friendly person.
As we all know, Kohli is a great motivator. During post-match team meetings, he would discuss various aspects of our game, but would never blame anyone, no matter what the result was. I admire him for his ability to boost the morale of his crew and keep them motivated.
There is an 'aura' of maturity surrounding AB de Villiers. Maxi (Maxwell) is fun-loving and friendly both on and off the field. Yuzi (Yuzvendra Chahal) is the 'Super Kid' of the team. He is friends with everyone and is extremely fun to be around.”