India captain Virat Kohli has once again thrown his weight behind the importance of mental health in the sport, as his side prepares to enter another lengthy period of life in bio-bubbles. India play New Zealand in the World Test Championship in Southampton from June 18, followed by a five-Test series against England from August 4 to September 14. The IPL-bound players in that squad will have to directly travel to the UAE to complete the remainder of the 2021 edition before the T20 WC kicks off in late October-November.
Kohli admitted the difficulty for players to stay motivated amidst the monotony of shuttling between hotel rooms and the ground without an outlet to disconnect from the game on long tours due to the prevailing Coronavirus situation around the world. In a situation like that, Kohli reckoned that addressing and assessing mental health conditions of the players will definitely ‘become a norm', akin to how the teams around the world handle workload management.
“With the current structure and the kind of structure we're competing inside, to be very honest for a long period of time it's very difficult for the players to stay motivated and find the right kind of mental space, you know, just confined in one area and just doing the stuff day in and day out and dealing with high pressure situations,” Kohli said on Wednesday (June 2).
“So this will definitely become a norm of the future, where apart from the workloads, I think the mental health side of things will also come into the picture big time, because you don't have an outlet at all in today's day and age, where you are literally going to the ground, coming back to the room. You have no space where you can just disconnect from the game, go out for a walk, or go out for a meal or a coffee and say let me just refresh myself, let me just get away from the game a little bit.
“I think this is a huge factor which should not be neglected because as much hard work as we've done to create this team, you don't want players falling out because of mental pressures and not having the capacity or the space to express themselves,” he added.
Kohli also reiterated that the Indian players had an open channel to the team management if they sought to take a break from the sport due to mental health reasons.
“I think there has to always be that channel open, which the management has left it open, for the players to approach them and tell them ‘look I'm not feeling right in the head and I just need a little break and I just want to disconnect from the game' I think that's going to be a huge factor and I'm sure Ravi bhai and the management feel the same.
Ravi Shastri, the India head coach, echoed the thoughts of his captain, talking up the need to keep the squad ‘mentally fresh' during long assignments.
“When you have to play five Test matches in this environment, in six weeks, it's no joke. Even the fittest will need a break. More than the physical part, it's the mental part.
“You can be destroyed mentally being asked to do the same things day in and day out and then go out and perform. And it's not easy to recover especially if you've had a bad day, so you know it's important you shuffle the guys around and keep them mentally fresh, it's not the physical part of it, because of the circumstances prevailing,” he said.
India have a six-week break after the WTC final (ending on June 22) before the start of their five-Test series against England in London. Kohli sees that as an opportunity for the players to hit the refresh button, and hopefully get to be ‘normal for a few days'.
The Indian captain cited the little bit of freedom that the squad got in Australia to move around and out of the confines of their hotels that went a long way in keeping them mentally fit for an otherwise sapping series.
“Well I feel like after you are done with the WTC, I think it's a great opportunity to refresh, restructure. Hopefully if things are ok, out in England we would have finished our quarantine periods and just for the guys to be normal for a few days, disconnect again,” Kohli said.
“Understanding that we have the pressure of a five-match series. Like in Australia, to be honest, if we had to compete inside a bubble for that long a period of time, the whole tour would have been very very tough. The fact that we had a little bit of freedom to go out and access the kind of things the locals were.. gave us a bit more time and a bit more space to reset and refresh,” he added.