Steven Smith has ruled out turning up for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League over growing concerns of players’ burnout inside prolonged biosecure bubbles.
In an interview with News Corp as part of a promotional campaign with Lifebouy for the Rajasthan Royals, Smith said from his Dubai bubble, “It’s still early days with the bubbles. We don’t know how long it’s going to last for. There’s an uncertainty there. It’s just going to be about having open conversations with coaches, general managers, whoever, to ensure that people are keeping their head space in a reasonable place.”
“Then there’s obviously going to be questions around selection. If someone takes some time off because they’ve been in the bubble for a long time and then someone comes in and plays well, do they take their spot?
“When guys are starting to find things a bit tough mentally from just living in the bubble, being able to get out – even if it might just be a few days of being normal might be a real help. Those conversations need to be had.”
The IPL in the UAE is Smith’s second back-to-back bubble experience, flying straight from one he was part of in England during Australia’s limited-overs series. Given that the home series against India starts on November 27, barely 14 days after reaching Australia, which includes a strict quarantining period as well, it is going to be a massive task for the players, mentally.
Unlike the 2019-20 season, where Smith joined the SIxers to take them to victory, they’re going to have to defend their title without his services. He’s ruled himself out, categorically.
“I’ll be honest with you – absolutely no chance.”
His Rajasthan Royals coach, Andrew McDonald, echoed similar sentiments, cautioning the authorities of the mental toll the life in a bubble takes on the players.
“The big fear is the sustainability of it all, also the burnout factor,” he said.
“The mental demands on the players have just gone up in terms of what they’re dealing with. Any time you lose autonomy as a human being, which is pretty much what bubble life is – it shrinks down your options. I think that can create some real fatigue which can also transition into that physical aspect as well.
“People judge what’s happened on wins and losses and I don’t think it’s about that. It’s about how we get players through in a healthy state around their welfare.”
At this stage, it seems quite likely that a lot of the other Australian players who’ll be part of all three formats, are set to follow suit and give the BBL, starting on December 3, a skip.