New Delhi [India], December 30 (ANI): The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged 2020 and while efforts to contain the spread of the virus are still on, people across the globe are looking at taking baby steps towards normalcy with an eye on safety protocols.
With COVID-19 fanning out, intermittent lockdowns were a common sight this year. The world coming to a standstill took a huge toll on people from all walks of life and needless to say, sporting action too came to a standstill. While the future is still dependent on a lot of unknowns, sports has resumed after a brief hiatus. However, scrupulous attention to detailing has been given as Standard Operating Procedures have been drawn to ensure safety of sportspersons across disciplines.
Conducting matches behind closed doors and players living in a bio-secure bubble were among the many precautions taken towards a safe and secure return to action.
The 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), after being postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic, kick-started in September in the UAE. While it was a huge relief and stress buster for the sports fans, playing in such controlled atmosphere brought its own challenges.
India and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper Virat Kohli had voiced concerns regarding living in a bio-bubble for a longer period of time. The captain had pointed that length of tournaments will have to be "seriously thought about" before adding that being under such conditions for a longer period can be "mentally taxing".
"These things will have to be considered like what length of the tournament and series one is going to play and what impact the players are going to have mentally of staying in a similar environment for 80 days... I think mentally, it can be taxing if this continues for this longer period at a very consistent rate," Kohli had said.
England pacer Jofra Archer had expressed similar concerns, admitting that living in a bio-bubble is "mentally challenging". The fast bowler's remarks had come during his side's ODI series against Australia. "I'll tell you, it has been mentally challenging. We've been in here for 16 weeks or something like that. I think it is going to be rarer going home or being normal again. Here has become the new norm," ESPN Cricinfo had quoted Archer as saying in September.
South Africa's pacer Kagiso Rabada had also spoken about the hardships of living in a bio-secure bubble and termed it as a "luxury prison". "It can be quite tough. You can't interact. You've basically lost your freedom. It's almost like luxury prisons we are in," ESPN Cricinfo had quoted Rabada as saying.
Playing without crowds was also an experience that international players had to get accustomed to. However, before the commencement of the IPL, Kohli had played down the fact that absence of crowd will have much impact on how they go about their business.
"All of us have thought about playing in front of empty stadiums. It would be a strange feeling, I cannot deny that. At the end of the day, you understand why you started playing the sport, you now have a chance of showing how much you love the game. Crowds are an amazing part of any sport but that is not something you play the sport for. This time around we have an opportunity to bring joy to so many people, our intensity and passion levels will not drop just because there is no crowd," Kohli had said.
In India, the seventh edition of Indian Super League (ISL), which commenced on November 20, had marked the return of the first major live sporting action in the country after the COVID-19 lockdown. The ongoing 2020-2021 ISL is entirely being staged in the state of Goa.
Ahead of the tournament, India football team captain Sunil Chhetri had admitted that staying inside a bio-bubble "isn't easy". "This is our third week inside the bio-bubble and I must confess it isn't easy but, of course, needed," he had said in a video posted on his Twitter.
Mumbai City FC head coach Sergio Lobera had made similar remarks ahead of the competition, saying: "We need to work together in a bubble, so it's very important that we live as a family. Till now I am very happy with the situation and very confident and positive for the future because living in a bubble is not easy and we have to work hard."
As far as the Indian hockey team is concerned, the men's core probable's group took part in a nearly 20-week long national coaching camp in SAI, Bengaluru. Chief coach Graham Reid had commended the level of commitment and determination shown by the team, having dealt with challenges of spending over four months in a bio-secure environment with no social activities.
"Given the extremely difficult circumstances for the last 4 months, I am pleased with where we are and how the players have conducted themselves in the bio-secure bubble in SAI. In a normal year, you have 4-6 weeks in camp and the players get 1 week off to spend with their friends and family. On the weekends they normally leave the campus and visit the mall or cinema etc. However, this year there has been none of that and has been a very tough mental test for all of us. But I am happy with the way players have handled this situation," Reid had said.
However, it is appropriate to say that resumption of sports provided welcome cheer in this difficult year for both the players and fans. (ANI)