Langer wary of player strain in the summer bubble
Australia's head coach acknowledges the sacrifices players will make this season as cricket pushes through coronavirus restrictions
21 September 2020, 06:31 PM AEST
Justin Langer saw the blood drain from faces when he detailed a home summer his team will largely spend in quarantine isolation and bio-secure bubbles, and is wholly supportive of any player who needs to escape the "huge pressure" that comes with cricket in the COVID-19 era.
Langer is among the eight members of Australia's men's limited-overs squad and accompanying support staff who arrived from their recent UK tour last weekend to begin a two-week stretch of strict quarantine at a new hotel attached to Adelaide Oval.
The group undertook their first training session at the adjacent Adelaide Oval No. 2 nets today, closely monitored in keeping with government quarantine requirements, to ensure players retain fitness and workload levels ahead of the coming season.
But the national coach, who faces a further fortnight in quarantine when he returns home to Perth early next month, said the UK hub experience had provided his team with a clear understanding of how life will look for the next six months or longer.
And for that reason, the mental health of players, staff and their families – who might face the reality of spending Christmas separated from partners ensconced within a team 'bubble' – will remain front-of-mind and under constant review.
"We know how hectic it's going to be," Langer said today from his hotel room in Adelaide.
"It's a long time away from our families and a long time away from home but we know the sacrifices we have to make to ensure cricket stays up and running and we keep entertaining people.
"We are very, very respectful of the current climate with guys being away from home, guys living in this hub life and we're looking for the best ways to manage that.
"Care within our group is paramount.
"If someone was to come up and say 'I need a break', they would have 100 per cent support from everyone in this current Australian cricket team."
England fast bowler Jofra Archer, who spent months in his team's 'bubble' during Test and limited-overs series across the northern summer, recently claimed his decision not to make himself available for the KFC BBL in Australia was due to uncertainty over "how many bio-bubbles I've got in me".
And former Australia Test vice-captain David Warner echoed those thoughts upon arrival in the UAE, where he will take part in the Indian Premier League tournament until early November before joining a cohort of players travelling to Australia to begin their two-week arrival quarantine.
"Bubble life is very challenging," Warner said over the weekend.
"It is the hardest thing not to have family with us due to restrictions, but these are unprecedented times due to COVID-19."
Langer noted it's the quarantine requirements, which continue to vary from state to state depending on their respective coronavirus protocols, that loom as the source of "greatest angst" for families of players and staff.
He said the prospect of separation from families, and the likelihood that some might be forced to spend Christmas apart due to its proximity to the scheduled Boxing Day Test match against India, had been the subject of ongoing discussions with Cricket Australia (CA).
"It's something I've talked about for the last four or five months with CA, and no doubt we'll talk about it with the ACA (Australian Cricketers' Association)," Langer said.
"It's one of the contentious issues at the moment.
"Our families all have their lives to lead, and with the current restrictions in place it will be problematic for a lot of the families.
"The sacrifices they (players) are making are huge.
"I know they get paid well but the sacrifices to their families and for the game of cricket, I certainly admire and respect them for that.
"These guys are under huge pressure so that's why we have to care for them and look after them to make sure they're going okay, and if they need a chop-out then they will have our 100 per cent support to do that."
Langer also noted that, in the wake of the team's England experience, it will be vital to introduce new training drills and group activities to "keep things as fresh as possible" throughout the summer in which players will be confined to bio-secure bubbles with national, domestic and BBL teams.
He said the need to maintain larger-than-usual playing squads to cater for contingencies such as player illness or restricted ability to transfer from one 'bubble' to another means limited on-field opportunities for some might also become a fact of life during summer.
"We're also very mindful that we want all our players playing as much cricket as possible," he said.
But he also revealed it was a recent discussion with his father, Colin, that put the challenges of upcoming quarantine and enforced isolation in sharper focus.
When Langer phoned his dad in Perth last week and mentioned the team's two-week quarantine stint in Adelaide before he could return home for another fortnight of isolation in WA, Colin Langer noted his son had recently led squad visits to Australian war memorials at the Western Front (in 2018) and Gallipoli (last year).
A central purpose for those pilgrimages was to bring home to players the extent of the sacrifice others had made in the service of their country.
"My old man said 'you took the boys to Gallipoli and the Western Front didn't you?'," Langer recalled today.
"I said 'that's right', and he said 'you might as well have taken them to Broome or Bali if you're going to start whinging about a few weeks quarantine or having to do the hard yards with a few sacrifices'.
"So that was a sobering thought and put it into perspective for me."