It’s official. The 32-member India squad will fly out from Dubai on a chartered flight on November 12 for a 70-day full tour of Australia. The players, however, are still awaiting final word from the BCCI if their families can accompany them, in what will be their second consecutive long tour in a restricted bio-secure bubble.
While some IPL franchises arranged for families to join cricketers, others had to make do with virtual conversations from their hotel rooms for the past two months. “They (players) have already been living in a bubble for the last 80 days. I don’t see a reason why the families won’t be allowed to come. The Australian cricket board is trying to accommodate the families. It should be okay,” BCCI president Sourav Ganguly told The Age on Monday.
But news coming in from Australia is that securing government permission to accommodate Indian players’ families isn’t proving to be easy. Many cricketers have young families, and it could end up being a 60-member party. Speaking ahead of the finalisation of schedule, Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley was non-committal. “We are working that through at the moment with BCCI and the Australian government. It would have to be a compelling case for families to come but that’s something we are working through.”
The players are waiting to know not only if families would be permitted but also how strict the quarantine rules and bio bubble regulations will be. Unlike the six-day quarantine rule in UAE for IPL, Australia has a mandatory 14-day quarantine regulation. “Look, if the quarantine rules demand no access to even hotel facilities, like gym and pool area, 14 days becomes a very long time for a family to stay confined in a hotel room. Many team members have small children, and they may decide it’s not worth it,” a player said on condition of anonymity.
Besides, once the quarantine period is over, families will continue to navigate the challenge of restricted access in Australia. In the UAE, many of the franchises have arranged for spacious team rooms with numerous bonding activities. “We are looked after very well in the hotel. We have a very good team room, a very good gym, we have beach access as well. There are a lot of things to do, lot of activities that help you when you come back to the hotel, you can switch off for a while,” Mumbai Indians’ Jasprit Bumrah said.
“No doubt, it’s a great help if you have your loved ones to meet after a tough day in the field on a long tour. But we have to look at it from their (family) point of view too,” said another player. “When things are normal, the wives bond amongst themselves and have their share of outings, be it shopping or simple walks. If they have to stay restricted to the hotel room all the time, it becomes tough on them. And tough on players, to keep them in good spirits.”
There are others who say the sheer knowledge that their family is safe with them would be comforting on tour during these difficult times. Many players have now called their families to the UAE, but don’t know yet if they will be accompanying them to Sydney next month.