When my bubble journey began in June last year, sport in the UK was on a knife-edge. It was imperative for me to get going to save something that I loved. It’s been a vivid experience being a Team Doctor in the bio-bubble. I’ve had wonderful experiences working across sports and organisations but the past year has been a challenge of a different kind. The initial months of the pandemic from March to May, much like everyone else, had me working from home. The county cricket clubs that I was working with then had to abruptly stop working, and we had to figure out a way forward in consultation with the government. My journey post lockdown resumed with the ECB and working with the England Men’s Team through their bio-bubble summer back home. The bubble took me to places like Sri Lanka and India as part of the England support staff. In the middle of those tours, I’ve been with the Royals in the UAE and now in India.
IPL preparations for me usually start four weeks out from the competition, setting up the protocols, establishing the guidelines, and working with the hotels and their staff to implement them. The rules and protocols are mainly driven by the BCCI, there are a few things that we change and add layers to from our side, considering our situation in a particular city. The basic principles regarding COVID management are something the majority of us are now aware of but with the hotel authorities, there are certain nuances and venue-specific management feed that goes out from the franchise in the lead up to the season.
Everybody that comes in has to have a COVID PCR test before they arrive and then undergo a seven-day quarantine period during which they are tested three times, and released if they’ve had consecutive negative test results by the end of the seven days. The hotel staff go through the same process with a ten-day quarantine and testing. I feel it’s important to be flexible and keep re-evaluating the guidelines we have in place, keeping pace with the evolving situation around us. During the season, the hotel basically runs as two separate hotels within one; they have their normal services for hotel guests and a separate set of entrances, partitions, and lifts for us. We have a separate set of floors for us that has exclusive access only for the team and a specific set of routes to take around the hotel that don’t let us mix with the general public.
Strong measures and processes remain in place for uncertain events that might take place in the bubble during the season. In the case of a few cases, we ascertain whether or not there are any other players, support staff, or hotel staff that are actually positive or were in contact with a positive member. Contact tracing would be done with a six-foot distance and fifteen minutes of total accumulated time as parameters. These parameters make wearing masks and social distancing absolutely vital in a bubble to ensure everyone’s safety. Once the list of contacts is compiled, we isolate them until we put them through a quarantine and testing process of 10-days before they’re all ok to come out. Detection and tracking are key components for maintaining the sanctity of the bubble, any mishap can adversely affect the team selection and performance of the team, more so can jeopardise the IPL and its future.
My experience with the Royals has been wonderful. I’ve now done two seasons here and it’s been a very welcoming environment to work in. Everyone is treated the same and they’re all made to feel an integral part of the family. There’s a genuine feel-good factor that not only pushes players to perform well on the field but also have a good time off it and enjoy themselves as part of the group.
It’s a fun environment around the team that the players enjoy, something that allows them to go a bit harder during training as they know they’ve got their protected time to relax and socialise. As a franchise, Rajasthan Royals have embodied the use of technology quite efficiently. Both on the field in terms of the visual training assessment aides and off-field in terms of the improved medical aides, the F1 simulator, things that just improve a player’s all-round life outside of the field during the season, enhancing their well-being and performance.
The pandemic has totally turned my line of duties inside out. My pre-COVID work would include looking after common issues such as cough and cold, looking after any sports injuries, helping with the diagnosis and treatment along with contributing to their rehabilitation and overall welfare plans. Post-COVID, as you’d expect, it’s making sure that COVID protocols are in place, trying to keep everybody as safe as possible whilst allowing them to train, play and perform at their best.
Given the situation in some parts of the world right now, I feel the protocols, at times, to some people don’t seem quite as real as they should, but the reason why they are called protocols is that they are strict rules that need to be followed. Unfortunately, the consequences for these are quite grim but still avoidable, hence it’s so important to follow the rules because it is really the best way to keep yourself safe as well as your friends and family. I feel through sport, and through my role, in particular, we can send out a word that can be beneficent to the people. Sport, after all, carries social responsibility as we all do and I feel it’s social responsibility on my part to help the sport function and in some ways offer the general public something to look forward to whilst at the same time signalling a message that is supportive in a trouble-free way.
~ Dr. Robert Young, Team Doctor, Rajasthan