Porbandar to Ahmedabad to Mumbai

There was one flight from Porbandar but the day I was supposed to travel there was no flight. There was no flight from Rajkot as well. So I had to go by car from Porbandar to Ahmedabad. I was a little skeptical about sitting with a driver, so I asked my dad to drive me till Rajkot and then I drove myself from Rajkot to Ahmedabad. I stayed at my cousin brother’s place and the next morning I flew from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. The first time I wore a PPE kit was during the Ahmedabad to Mumbai flight.

Travelling is something I live for. When I was on the flight from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, and then when I landed in Mumbai, there were a lot of things going on in the mind. When I wore the PPE for the first time, it was super uncomfortable, it was not made for my height, it wasn’t fitting me, but I had to just put it on. I came on an Air India flight and there were a lot of people on the flight. I was super uncomfortable. And after going through that, even after I got out of the airport, there were a lot of things on my mind. I saw a lot of people from various places and till then I had only heard it in the news that there are this many cases in this city and this many cases in that city and not to travel as long as you have to. I was a little nervous and it was scary as well. I felt travel should only happen if it is very, very necessary in these times. And it was necessary for us, so I had to do it.

Feeling like a patient

When wearing the PPE kit, I felt like a patient to be honest as if I am suffering from something. I felt disconnected from the world. Everybody was keeping a safe distance from each other, nobody was talking to each other, no nobody was meeting each other. Anyways everyone was wearing a mask, so you can’t see anyone’s face or anyone smiling or looking at you. There were still people who recognised me and said ‘hi’ to me from a distance, which felt really good in these times when you don’t talk to a lot of people from outside your circle. Couple of people were wishing good luck for the IPL to happen and for us to fly to Dubai, so it felt good.

Dubai room, a home for 80 days

Our room will be our home for the next three months. When I reached Mumbai, I was the first player to arrive because I had an early morning flight from Ahmedabad and I didn’t meet anyone. I met our team manager downstairs in the lobby and he handed me my card. Then I was in the room for the next three days. I didn’t see anyone, any of the players. We were not allowed to meet each other in Mumbai as well. We saw each other on the flight to Dubai. I was getting updates on the Rajasthan Royals Instagram page. After reaching Dubai, we knew that we were staying in this nice resort with a private beach assigned to us. I didn’t ask for a particular view. We have a nice lawn area as well. We were lucky to get that area because all the other teams have balconies. Now that it has opened up quite a bit we just went on a hotel tour in the morning today, with Jake our COO. He showed us around, what all we can assess in the hotel, which includes a private beach area and there is a team recreational room, which has table tennis and pool table and stuff. There is a private dining area as well where we will have our team dinners but following the social distancing protocol. We will get those bands today (Wednesday) as well so if we go too close to anyone it will flash a warning sign. I think I took three days to settle down in this room, I took more time because I knew this is going to be the room I will stay for the next 80 days. I have every corner of the room assigned to one particular thing. I have my workout things in one corner of the room, I have my bag sorted in one corner, I have my practice clothes in one of the wardrobes, I have my daily routine clothes in one of the wardrobes. I am settled now. We were in the room all the time, except the times we got out for the tests.

No fixed routine

One thing I feel is important is that you have to change your routine and modify it time and again so you don’t get bored of it. Because to follow a particular routine in one room with timings assigned to it is difficult. So one day I do my workout in the morning, the other day in the afternoon and another day in the evening. So I keep on shifting. I have my workout session and my yoga and meditation session. I have my Playstation also with me. I will read as well. I have made sure I have a lot of options in my free time as well. I feel it is important, you have to have options. You can’t follow a particular routine everyday, you have to be spontaneous with it. The only thing you can be spontaneous with is your routine. I haven’t been a big binge watcher till recently, but my finance Rimmi has been a binge watcher for long. She has been telling me to watch a lot of shows. She has watched ‘Friends’ five to six times and I had not even watched it once.

Two-metre distance

Even if you meet another player you have to maintain a distance of two metres, even if you are in someone’s room. I think that will be the most difficult part. Very single player and even the management will face it. You need someone to talk to when you are away from home for such a long period of time. That is what I am trying to get used to, probably be in touch with your families. I didn’t imagine myself to be video calling so much ever. I wasn’t a big fan of video calling before this lockdown. I was always skeptical. But now it has changed. You have to be in touch with your loved ones. It will be difficult but everyone will find a way. Eventually there will be team meetings and stuff happening and players will sit with each other while maintaining a distance. We are all aware that we have to sacrifice some things.

Monitoring health

I have not been checking (oxymeter). The only thing I do is I take steam and be mindful of any symptoms that can make me aware that something is wrong. But we have to check the temperature and also fill a symptoms’ form every morning to get the COVID pass that will help us go into the practice sessions. Team has already given us the oxymeter and thermal gun as well.

Watching diet

John (Gloster) our physio has curated a special menu for us which has vegetarian options as well. He has asked me particularly what I would like to have, because he kind of knew that whatever I would suggest, everyone would like that as well and that would be healthy as well. We have a curated menu for the rooms and all of us order from the same menu. Every player has recommended something or the other. There is one Indian chef at the hotel as well, so he is helping us out in terms of what can be available and what is not. I feel people are getting comfortable with the food. There will be some sort of difficulties as well because you can’t get comfort food like rotis or parathas. I recommended a couple of dishes like dal makhani and palak paneer along with brown rice. I also recommended beetroot, humus, avocado and brown toast because there is nice avocado here. We checked what is available here and according to that we tried to make some healthier options in the menu. As of now we are not allowed to order from outside but I think we can do it given that the hotel actually supports that. They have to take the delivery, they have to serve it to us in their own sanitised hotel vessels. It is a little complicated, but I think it will be allowed going forward.

Testing and training

It is the most difficult protocol to follow, testing every week. I have already had six done so far. Three in India and three in Dubai. It is difficult because it is nasal. Today evening (Wednesday) we will start training. Our six days are over, we got our third test done yesterday and the results have come out. I can’t wait to go on the ground with the team and start training.

Cricket after lockdown

When the lockdown happened, to be honest I had a very grueling season, so that was a welcome break for me. I thought, hopefully, this will all get over in one, two or three months. But then it was much longer than that and it became a little tough afterwards to keep myself motivated. There were times when I was not motivated at all to do anything because the picture was not clear about when the next tournament will happen. Once it all started getting a little clear that was when I started pushing myself and started bowling in my practice sessions.And then when the IPL was announced, like anyone else, I had a sense of joy and relief that we will be doing what we love. Yes I knew that there were protocols to follow and it was not going to be easy this time around, but I think this was needed for all of us. Even if it would be a little difficult, I would still play my part and make this happen.

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