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The Curious Case Of The Bio-Bubble? What’s The Fuss All About?

Jasprit Bumrah with mask on


With Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill and others coming under the scanner for “breach of protocols” our Man’s Life resident expert, Suhail Chandhok, decodes the most used & confusing word of 2020 in the world of sport – The Bio Bubble!

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Re-invention, innovation and the “Bio-Bubble” – Welcome to the New Normal of world Cricket!

These have perhaps been the defining words that have determined the present and immediate future of the game and while economies have been battered, the sporting world too had come to a complete standstill but has found a way to bounce back with a large degree of success. Much of that is due to the strict protocols in place by various boards, administrations and broadcasters to ensure that Live Cricket is back for global audiences. 

“A Bio Bubble is a safe and secure environment created to keep players and team members isolated from the outside world to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection and therefore an environment only accessible by an approved set of people.”

Cricket boards have suffered almost catastrophic losses, global tournaments have been re-scheduled and even playing regulations have been altered as the ICC and the world of slowly came back to life while finding ways to re-invent itself through the pandemic. The ‘revival’ Test Series between the West Indies and England in July sparked it all off and was a shot in the arm for the cricketing fraternity with teams operating out of just two venues where hotels were on-site too. 

That leap of faith from the Windies and then Pakistan brought international cricket back to our screens too but it didn’t mean that everything was rosy again! With boards unable to generate revenue, players were forced to take up to 50% pay cuts which even prompted West Indies skipper Jason Holder to call upon England to repay the favour of touring the Caribbean to keep West Indies cricket afloat! The ICC committee has done their part to help teams out around the world with a relaxation of rules on apparel logos for the next 12 months and allowances for more advertising on ground too to increase cash flows. 

The players too have had to make changes on and off the field with no use of saliva allowed while shining the ball and strict protocols in place while not on the field within their respective Bio-Bubble. Joffra Archer felt the pinch of being the first to break the Bio Bubble and could have potentially cost the ECB “tens of millions of pounds” according to the ECB Director, Ashley Giles.

The overall success of those series’ however meant that the IPL was back alive and boy did it deliver. Barring a few initial hiccups with Covid cases cropping up, the IPL delivered like never before with a record total of 400 billion viewing minutes on TV, clocking a 23% jump in total consumption over IPL 2019 (326 billion minutes), and a 12.4% increase over ICC World Cup 2019 (356 billion minutes). Much of that success was due to the strict protocols in place by the teams for their players and by the host broadcaster, Star Sports to ensure that the viewing experience for every fan staying safe in their homes, was second to none. As a presenter of IPL 2020, I was hauled up in a hotel for over two months with no family or friends in sight with swabs up my nose and down my throat every week, knowing well that a breach of protocol would not only endanger the lives of over 400 others in the same situation as me but would also disregard the incredibly detailed efforts put in place to bring the IPL alive to millions of starved cricket fans. While it hit home hard to be away for that long and in confinement of some sort, it also meant “work” for an entire industry was back and that is something that needed to be valued and not taken for granted. 

The world of Football, the NBA, Formula 1, Tennis and several others followed the same systems of creating Bio secure environments for players with varying degrees of success. But, as if trouble from China of late from all sides wasn’t enough, the recent apparent breach of protocol from Rohit Sharma (who had just joined the team in Australia), Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini came when the men chose to visit a Chinese restaurant on the first day of the New Year. The incident caused an outburst with support coming in from dedicated Indian fans while others have come down hard on the 5 men that are a key part of this fearless team India setup. The episode came into the limelight after an Indian cricket fan in Melbourne, Navaldeep Singh, shared a video about the five men on the opposite table on social media and even claimed that he had cleared their $118.69 bill.

While cricket fans around the globe like to disagree often with Sanjay Manjrekar these days, he is someone I have great respect for through the years for speaking his mind and thought he summed it up perfectly in his tweet below:

International cricketers have chosen to dedicate a part of their lives to touring with their teams and dedicate that time to their nations with plenty at stake, both in terms of pride and in terms of major monetary implications. It is no doubt difficult for many, especially having just been part of an intense 3-month long bubble for the IPL coming into the tour, but that sacrifice is a part of playing sport at the elite level and in times such as this, there is perhaps merit in sitting on the more cautious side of the fence (or bubble). The jury is still out on whether it was a breach of protocol or not, with some BCCI officials speaking of a “conspiracy”, while the team management itself backed the five players stating that the “board is clear that the players did not do any activity that breaches the bio-secure bubble protocols”. 

One thing is for certain; on an already high-pressure tour where India is missing their skipper and other key members through injury, the BCCI and the players themselves would have loved to keep the spotlight on their performances on the field following the sensational performance in Melbourne rather than let their focus drift. It’s imperative that they stay in the zone, cut out the white noise and create their own “bubble” within the bubble to keep their eyes firmly on the prize – that of retaining the Border Gavaskar Trophy! 


[Image Credit: Mumbai Indians]

Suhail Chandhok

Vertical Head - Sports