Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

IPL

Blockers suddenly playing vital role at IPL 2020

Term enters tournament lexicon as convoluted safety measure to help secure players against Covid-19, rather than any defensive strokeplay

There was once a time when blockers had no part in T20 cricket anywhere, let alone the high-octane world of the IPL.

As you might have heard, though, we are living in weird times.

Now, the term blocker has tentatively entered the IPL lexicon – although it bears no relation to the usual meaning of the word in cricket.

Batsmen will still be required to forego forward-defensives, or blocks of any sort, to up the scoring rate when they get out on the fields of the UAE from September 19.

Instead, it refers to a convoluted safety measure designed to help secure players against Covid-19.

Before leaving for Dubai, Rajasthan Royals underwent extra testing over and above the standards demanded by the tournament’s organisers.

As part of their extra precautionary measures, they tested players for antibodies.

The theory was that, if there were players who had had the virus previously, they would have been strategically placed when it came to assigning rooms at the team hotel, to act as blockers for the virus.

As it turned out, it was inconsequential, but it goes to show the extent to which teams are going to get this tournament on.

Private charter flights transported them, and players travelled in hazmat gear, which they changed at precise times.

When they arrived at the team hotel their kit bags were sanitised and put in storage for six hours before being returned to them.

“It is all about maintaining the health and safety of everybody in this tournament,” John Gloster, who is in charge of the Royals’ medical operation, said in a webvideo charting the side’s journey to UAE.

“The process [since arriving in UAE] becomes even more complicated because we have to follow the UAE government guidelines, as well as the BCCI protocols that are in place.

“We, as the Rajasthan Royals, want to be seen as the organisation that is helping other sports learn about how to play and compete and be safe in the Covid world.

“Yes, it is going to be different, but at the end of the day this is all about playing sport, and we are all professionals.”

According to Mike Hesson, the director of cricket for Royal Challengers Bangalore, players mental and emotional well-being needs to be looked after, too.

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Gallery UAE cricket stadiums and training facilities

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“Players have spent the last few months in a variety of environments and are therefore in different stages of fitness and training,” Hesson, the former New Zealand coach, told RCB's website.

“A singular training approach is not the best route to start getting ready for the season.

"Our support staff will continue working in a way that is flexible and offers personalised support.

“We have a highly-skilled support staff team to nurture the players mentally, physically and emotionally to assist each players preparation so they are ready to play their best cricket.”

Simon Katich, RCB’s head coach, said the team will initially train in separate groups, once they are out of quarantine in their hotel rooms.

“Given the unique circumstances Covid-19 has presented to everyone worldwide, we are just extremely grateful to be in a position that we can get back to putting on a show for IPL in the UAE,” Katich said.

“Our preparations have revolved around giving the players at least three weeks to get back into the routine of training their skills and getting their bodies ready for the competition, so they can build up gradually and try to minimise any injuries.

“We have several split-group sessions planned initially to help give the batsmen plenty of time getting volume in after such a long layoff.

“It also ties into helping mitigate any risks with Covid by not having the full squad training all at once either.

“Once everyone has got their touch and rhythm back with bat and ball, we will move into more competitive training before the scheduled practice matches and the start of the tournament.”

Updated: September 8, 2020 02:30 PM

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