Proteas captains Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar have opened up on the challenges that have come with playing professional cricket during Covid-19.
In a press release from Cricket SA on Wednesday Bavuma, South Africa's ODI and T20 captain, highlighted the impact that living in bio-secure environments (BSE) had on the mental wellbeing of the players.
"Playing cricket in a BSE was a massive challenge for everyone involved in the game," said Bavuma.
"Everything changed, from the length of our stays in hotels, to how we train and play. We weren’t even allowed to hi-five or hug each other when we celebrated wickets – that part was easier to remember for some, more than others.
"It hasn’t been an easy year for us all. Being confined to a hotel room and being restricted from leaving the hotel and having the choice – in most places away from home – between your room and the team room and little access outside the hotel takes its toll, particularly for the all-format playing members of the team and management."
The Proteas men's team has been part of no less than eight international cricket BSEs in total - these have ranged from home tours against England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and most recently the Netherlands, to away tours to Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland, Sri Lanka and the ICC T20 World Cup in the United Arad Emirates (UAE) and Oman.
'Our BSEs are of the highest safety standards'
Now, with India set to arrive in the country next week, another bio-bubble environment will have to be set up for this festive season's all-format tour.
"CSA has instituted world class standards and measures to ensure that all players, staff and officials are protected within this environment. Our main focus was to safeguard the cricket biosphere by managing strict entry standards and limited movement outside of its cordon," said CSA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra.
Manjra emphasised that the CSA BSEs had met the highest standards set by national government and CSA is continuously looking at ensuring that the management of the BSE is second to none in the world.
"What we have implemented at our BSE is a cordon sanitaire which offers full and continuous protection to all individuals who respect and abide by our very demanding guidelines and rules," he said.
Bavuma, meanwhile, expressed faith in the ability of CSA to pull off another BSE for the Indian tour.
"I’m confident that our BSEs are of the highest safety standards and the protocols are set not only with the everyone’s physical well-being, but mental health in mind," Bavuma concluded.
'We don’t know how much longer we’ll be operating like this'
Proteas Test captain Dean Elgar echoed Bavuma’s sentiments.
"It’s hard to believe that we’ve been working in these BSE conditions for a year now, but anyone who has been affected, either directly or indirectly by the Covid-19 virus, knows that this is a necessity if we want to continue playing cricket," he said.
"It takes a toll on a player mentally and yet this team continues to produce good results and make progress – that’s something that I personally don’t think is being spoken about enough.
"The measures that have been put in place and the hotels have been chosen take into account the teams’ physical and mental health needs. We don’t know how much longer we’ll be operating like this, but it’s gratifying to know that when tours come around the health and safety of all involved is top priority."