09 Nov

Mitchell Starc has declared hub life is not sustainable through cricket's COVID-19 times as players remain in the dark on how limited their freedoms will be this season.

The Australian bowler has committed to playing for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League (BBL), but the uncertainty of the coming months is concerning him.

Less than a fortnight before the start of the international men's season, bubble life is already taking a mental toll on Australia's leading players, several of whom have been living under significant restrictions since mid-August.

While conditions in the Sheffield Shield hub in Adelaide are relatively relaxed with players able to dine outdoors and order takeaway food, restrictions are much tighter in the Indian Premier League (IPL), held in the UAE, with some franchises not allowing their players to leave to their hotels.

The likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins could have as little as just a few weeks at home between now and June should they choose to take part again at next year's IPL.

The trio are due to return to Australia on Thursday for two weeks of quarantine before joining the international men's hub for the one-day international, T20 and Test series against India, which doesn't finish until January 19.

The calendar for the first half of 2021 is tight, with a Test tour of South Africa due to leave days after the BBL final on February 6, leaving little if any time off before next year's IPL - tentatively scheduled for late March through to May.

Australia's Test stars fear that players will have to endure another repeat of their claustrophobic UK hub when their accommodation was at the cricket ground.

"When you're stuck in situations like that, month after month, going from bubble to bubble, and if those restrictions remain the same or quite similar, it can be quite tiresome on the mind and body as well," said Starc, who is playing for NSW in the Shield after turning down an IPL contract to freshen up in the off-season.

"Certainly for myself to get that round of golf or walk around is a mental break from a day's play or a game. That's important for people's wellbeing”, he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"Then you throw in the extra hurdle with guys with families and kids going hub to hub, and bubble to bubble, you throw in some restrictions in terms of quarantine and then it makes it quite difficult. There's not been too much communication just yet. Things are starting to come through on what those six white-ball games will look like between Sydney and Canberra,".

In developing protocols, CA has been working with infectious diseases expert Dr Cassy Workman, who also advised the National Rugby League on its biosecurity plan, and interim chief executive Nick Hockley said "we’ve been thinking about how we can give the players a bit more freedom".

“We’ve got a tiered approach, depending on what the conditions are," Hockley said. "If we’re in a jurisdiction where there has been no community transmission for a long time then we can open things up.

“There are freedoms. They can go out and get a cup of coffee, assuming that we get to that kind of risk level. But we’ll analyse it at the time. There are very clear protocols depending on what the environment is."

John Stephenson


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