Eoin Morgan, Jason Holder warn ‘bubble to bubble’ cricket isn’t sustainable

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Eoin Morgan and Jason Holder have warned about the consequences of players spending extended periods in bubbles (Getty Images)

Eoin Morgan and Jason Holder have warned that it is “untenable” to expect players to continue to spend extended periods in lockdown as part of cricket’s response to Covid-19.

Morgan, the captain of England’s white-balls teams, and Holder, West Indies’ Test captain, are both currently in the UAE for the IPL and have endured long spells in bio-secure bubbles in order to fulfil their obligations as international and franchise players.

While both acknowledged their fortune in being able to pursue their careers at a time others were losing their jobs, they did warn that the impact on players’ mental health would result in more of them pulling out of tours as “extreme burnout” became an issue.

And talking as part of a Chance to Shine event aimed at raising funds for the charity’s Street programme, Morgan called upon spectators not to look down on anyone who felt the need to step away from the game, suggesting living in lockdown was “one of the more challenging times” he had experienced in the sport.

“We managed to fulfil all of our international fixtures for the summer,” Morgan said. “That was an unbelievable achievement for the teams that came across and the commitment the ECB showed. The level of dedication from staff involved was extraordinary. We’re extremely fortunate enough to be back playing.

“But to keep that level of bubble for a 12-month period, or 10 of the 12 months that we normally travel, I think is untenable. I don’t think it’s possible. I actually think it’s probably one of the more challenging times for anybody involved in the cricket industry.

“As a team, we’ve accepted that guys will come in and out of the bubble as they feel it’s affecting their mental health. Their health is a priority. So I do think we’ll see more players pull out of tours. That’s just the reality of things. And I don’t think people should look down on it: they shouldn’t feel like they’re not doing their job or not committing to their country.

“You can you can drill a player both mentally and physically. And it can cause extreme burnout, which nobody wants to see.

“Lockdown for us in the UK was primarily focused on physical wellbeing, but maybe that was to the detriment of mental wellbeing. We actually want to be at the forefront of making it acceptable for people to say: ‘You know what, I need to spend time with my family now. I’m going to take this tour off.’ And then they step away for a month, just because of the extraordinary circumstances.”

It was an assessment accepted by Holder. As captain of the West Indies side that toured England this summer, he led the first international team that resumed sport after the outbreak of Covid-19. But to do so, he endured weeks in partial quarantine and admitted that he was struggling with the prospect of endless months of more lockdown to come.

“It’s been demanding,” Holder agreed. “It has been challenging. I’m blessed to be still working. There are lots of people in the world not working because of Covid and we’re still given the opportunity to entertain people and do something we really love. But something needs to be thought of in order to just try to free up things a little bit more for the players’ mental health.

“I had two months in [the bubble] England. Then I was home literally for two days before I went to Trinidad [for the CPL] for a month-and-a-half. Then I spent four or five days at home in Barbados before I got a call to come over. So you’re back into isolation.

“And if you look at scheduling, it doesn’t get any easier. It’s literally going from bubble to bubble. Some places are accepting families and some aren’t. So it makes it harder to be away from your family and your loved ones. I haven’t seen Barbados properly in about five months and I don’t know when I’ll get back there.” (ESPNCricinfo)