Cricket prepares for psychological well being points arising from residing within the hub David Schout

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IFor the first few months of life in bio-safe bubbles, cricketers were reluctant to face their newfound circumstances. The element of novelty may not have eroded, but more importantly, there was an understanding that others in the community were making it much tougher. Boredom in a hotel room was of course preferable to losing one's job.

However, in the past few weeks the narrative has shifted. The players made it clear that living in bubbles, while necessary in a Covid-19 world, was a mentally exhausting experience.

England quick Jofra Archer was clear. "They only count down days," he said at the Indian Premier League's UAE hub. England white ball skipper Eoin Morgan said the current situation was "untenable" while Steve Smith, when asked if he would enter the Big Bash League after Australia's upcoming streak against India, was similarly defiant: "I'm honest with you – absolutely no chance. "

After the recent summer, the Chief Medical Officer of the Cricket Board of England and Wales found that players and staff within the restrictive UK bubbles had a limit of only "three to four weeks". "You need some time out after that," said Dr. Nick Peirce. Despite the warning, some of Australia's best male cricketers have the prospect of a much longer period of time inside. Almost five months. Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood have been in hubs since late August; first in the UK and now in the UAE. When the IPL ends next week, they will be flying home in quarantine for a fortnight before entering various hubs across the country for a streak against India that ends in late January.

The question arises as to whether Cricket Australia could give players a wellbeing break this important summer. Coach Justin Langer has already forecast decisions that "people don't agree with". But he said: "Our staff, our players and our staff are a high priority for us to make sure they are healthy and happy." The issue of mental health in sport has become an important issue in recent years, and the issue that the Board of Directors is taking very seriously after a number of high profile players have taken extended breaks. This partially prompted CA to appoint a mental health director.

Dr. Hassan Mahmood, a consultative psychiatrist in the UK with expertise in the mental health of elite cricketers, said CA is a "leader" in the field. He noted that the prospect of nearly 150 days in a hub was worrying.

"This is quite worrying. Limited player feedback (in the UK) has raised concerns about longer periods within the bubble and its sustainability," he said. "When Covid-19 was born I felt this was Topic would become more of an issue. If you play cricket for weeks or even months without getting out of the bubble, it gets difficult. "

CA currently operates hubs in Adelaide (for the Sheffield Shield) and Sydney (WBBL). South Australia's Jake Weatherald has already left the center on mental health issues, while English weirdo Sophie Ecclestone has turned down a deal with Perth Scorchers altogether.

Dr. Mahmood emphasized the importance of psychologists on teams this summer and mental health promotion programs that allowed players to spot the signs and symptoms when things weren't quite right.

Fortunately, both CA and the players 'union, the Australian Cricketers' Association, appear well prepared to navigate this coming summer. The ACA's general manager for player development and wellbeing, Justine Whipper, told Guardian Australia that a team has met weekly over the past few months to discuss plans. These included Michael Lloyd (Australian team psychologist for men), Peter Clarke (Australian team psychologist for women) and Lyndel Abbott (ACA's internal psychologist) who worked with the Australian team at the Rio Olympics.

Whipper said they encouraged players to manage themselves as best they can within the hubs. That is, to be armed with practical strategies to tackle the months that may be difficult. Under a traffic light system, they encouraged players to recognize the relevant signs. "Green light is when you are thriving, orange is when you start to get stressed a little," she said. “We want them to sit in the orange light for a short time and go back to green instead of switching to red. We try to empower them to become aware of their feelings. "



Lisa Griffith and the Sydney Sixers at the North Sydney Oval last month. Photo: Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

Sydney Sixers all-rounder Lisa Griffith, who is currently in the WBBL village at Sydney Olympic Park, said these preparations were important. “We worked with team psychologists to find out what 'not-OK me' looks like and what could possibly trigger it. We dealt with this before we arrived so there is a plan of attack in place if things are not right. "

All eight WBBL teams are housed in the village, including the Sydney-based players who will be staying in the village for the five week duration of the tournament. Griffith credit cricket NSW, the ACA and the Sixers that mental health support needs to be bigger this season. "I've had my own mental health problems and I feel very supported here. You realized really well that the support we had had to be more. So when you get into an environment that really highlights mental health problems, when you are inside stuck, they have put in place programs and structures that really help us. "

Getting to know rivals in the field was the most positive result of the village and a "humanizing" experience. However, the all-rounder said the final weeks of the tournament could prove to be difficult from a mental health standpoint as some teams have increased mobility and losses. "I know there are people here, even a friend of mine who is not doing so well. There are people who are not getting along very well with this hub life that I think is natural."

At the beginning of her career, Griffith took a hiatus on mental health issues and has since spoken publicly about her struggles. She joins a growing list of cricketers, including Moises Henriques and Glenn Maxwell, who have done the same thing. Whipper said these actions made it easier for others to come.

“Every time someone raises their hand, it becomes easier for the next person to do the same. You were such an impetus for change. “She said that while the coming summer may present certain challenges, it has benefited from significant advances in mental health. "We've done a lot of research on this recently, and in the last three to six years the search for help has changed significantly." It's pretty phenomenal. Players who feel comfortable in their surroundings and ask for help have increased dramatically. "

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