The downside of life in a bio-bubble is loneliness and the lack of freedom of movement but for Ravi Shastri, the last months have created stronger bonds like never before among players along with a lot of conversations around what they all love – the game of cricket.
While the players have been in a bio-bubble, which is a highly restricted area since the IPL started in last September, the Indian team has been experiencing the bubble life since its Australia tour started last November and currently is in the bubble for the ongoing England series.
“There is no choice, there are restricted team areas, so you can’t go out, meet anyone and the same exists now,” Shastri said at a virtual press conference, a day after India thrashed England 3-1 to storm into the World Test Championship final.
“So if you want to get out of the room, go into a team area, where you meet other players, so what it’s done basically is, it has made players meet each other more often after playing hours.
“....and when you meet more often, somewhere down the line there will be conversations regarding the game, which used to happen in our time. Like when you finished the game, you would still be sitting in the dressing room a good hour after the game, talking cricket,” the head coach added.
Shastri also stressed that the bubble made the players understand each other better and discussed their personal issues.
“So, I think the best thing that has happened is talking cricket amongst the team members and they had no choice, so they were forced to do it and that’s been a big help,” he said.
Talking cricket has helped players understand each other better.
“They have gotten to understand each others’ background, mental state, where they come from, where they are in life, settled, unsettled.”
Shastri believes that the kind of discussions that they had helped them grow a mutual trust and bonding.
“It allowed them to open themselves to their colleagues a lot more, discuss personal issues, you know more freely, win more trust from the team members, a lot of positives like you mentioned because of this bubble,” he said.
Empathy is another thing he feels that one needs to have in these difficult times like when they lost the ODI series first up in Australia.
“You had to be patient more than anything else. We started with two losses in Australia in ODIs. In normal circumstances, you can get straight to the point. You can be aggressive, you can make the most painful point with an individual and he’ll pull up his socks,” added 58-year-old Shastri. But Shastri knew where they came from after being in lockdown for six months.
“But I had made up my mind with my team management that we’re going to show empathy because, for six months, a lot of the guys had not got out of their flats. No one lives in farms in India, some do, some don’t.”
It was up to him to ensure the leeway that they got and how it was to be given.
“ I knew very clearly that it’ll take time. Now how much time do I be patient, that was my goal.
“....and it didn’t take long, because we were a week/10 days, two weeks quarantined, another week, two losses, three weeks, by the time the boys trained a bit and I knew we needed one result our way for things to turn around, because of the work we had done last four-five years as an Indian cricket team…,” he stressed.
And it all changed during the third one-dayer as it was followed with a T20 series win and the historic Test victory that followed.
“This team takes pride in winning, this team doesn’t mind losing as long as they throw punches, so it was just a matter of being patient for that one switch of that result and it happened in the third ODI game (in Australia) through some brilliance from Hardik (Pandya) and Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) and then you didn’t look back…,” he signed off.