Usually around this time in an IPL season, the South African all-rounder Chris Morris begins to really feel the fatigue; not just because there are so many matches to play, but because of the hectic, red-eye travel schedule.
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This is the first time in seven seasons of playing in the league that Morris is feeling relaxed and fresh. Thirty days of matches in a normal IPL could mean being on roughly 15 flights. Not so this time – at the UAE IPL bio-bubble players lounge in buses shuttling between the three venues.
With six of the teams based at Dubai and two at Abu Dhabi, the travel time is 90 minutes by bus between the two venues. The maximum time anyone spends on travel is two and a half hours, when a team has to go from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah.
“It has been magnificent (this time),” Morris, who’s playing for RCB, said.
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“Travel…that’s one of the toughest parts of the IPL, cricket is always going to be tough because it is the best tournament in the world, but travelling in India is not easy as it looks. It is absolutely grinding. You are finishing your game almost at midnight, you are getting back to your hotel room at half past 1 or 2 in the morning. Then you gotta pack your bags…by the time it’s almost four and you are leaving in a couple of hours. You are so exhausted from the game. And you are leaving the hotel in a couple of hours, you have to take a shower, look good, get on the bus, drive for an hour and half to reach the airport, get on the flight somewhere…
Like playing at home
“So it’s quite refreshing to just relax. It is almost like playing at home. The boys are enjoying not travelling.”
Morris, like many fast bowlers, has the added hassle of having to fit his 6ft5 frame into an aircraft seat. The team management usually tries to find taller players seats with more leg room, and physios almost always have to pay them more attention.
“You take the example of fast bowlers, and the West Indian players, who are tall and sturdy, with their long legs, if they sit in a cramped-up space, then they are at risk of ending up with tightness or a niggle in the lower limb,” said Vaibhav Dagga, the head of sports science & rehabilitaion Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, who has worked as the Physio for multiple IPL teams in the past. “We have to take extra care of them. Even the planning of the sitting arrangement when taking a flight is the responsibility of us physios.”
Another big South African pacer, Anrich Nortje, has no experience of the rigors of IPL travel, but he does know the value of quality recovery time during a tournament.
“Going back to be the same hotel is quite nice,” said the Delhi Capitals bowler playing his maiden IPL.
“Obviously the guys want to be able to go out and just be free, but just for the recovery purpose it is great, to get an extra day off, which otherwise would have been the travel day, it’s definitely helping.”
Sleep best for recovery
While teams in the IPL use a variety of recovery protocols, including massages, ice-baths, contrast-baths, pool work, and even Far Infrared garments, there’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep after a game, something that the travel often made impossible before.
“If you have enough sleep, for eight to nine hours, you tend to recover well. Sleep is the utmost recovery strategy,” says Dagga.
With travel out of the equation, and even recreation restricted to the hotel premises due to bio-bubble rules, finding enough time for sleep is not a problem.
Air travel is so hard on the body, that Dagga says professional athletes never play a match or train on the same day as the flight.
“No nets, no fitness training, nothing. It’s complete recovery for the body,” said Dagga.
Dagga recalls a particularly nightmarish travel schedule when he was with the formerly known as Delhi Daredevils. it was 2015, and in 12 days, they were required to play six games in six different parts of the country. Though he does not want to draw a direct line between travel and results, Delhi lost four of those games.
KXIP biggest gainers
Teams based out of the major cities at least have direct flights; for Kings XI Punjab, whose digs are at Chandigarh, the route is more circuitous, involving connecting flights from Delhi.
“Being with Kings XI in Chandigarh most of the time we had two flights into different places, like to go to Bangalore,” said Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. “Sometimes we were travelling upwards of seven hours. That can take its toll. When you have short breaks between games and you are always travelling, and you are spending 50 per cent of the time at the airport, it can be quite draining.”
Maxwell is yet to perform to his full potential at this IPL, but, he said, the experience has been far more relaxed.
“We are in a bio-bubble for two months, it is an advantage to settle in, make your hotel room home for two months and really get a feel of the place,” he said.