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CSA monitoring De Kock’s bubble fatigue

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Quinton de Kock is taking a “mental health break” following medical advice, which means he will miss the CSA T20 Challenge tournament that starts in Durban this Friday.

The Titans and Cricket South Africa are happy for captain Quinton de Kock to have a few weeks off to recharge. Picture: Shaun Roy, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The realities of ‘bubble life’ has hit home hard for South African cricket following the agreement to allow Quinton de Kock a few weeks off from the game.

The South African captain is taking a “mental health break” following medical advice, which means he will miss the CSA T20 Challenge tournament that starts in Durban this Friday.

The complexities around the issue can be seen from the fact that as of Tuesday morning, the national selection convenor Victor Mpitsang hadn’t been fully informed of the reasons for De Kock’s withdrawal from the tournament and hinted that his position for the Pakistan series in April could be in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the Titans franchise, which has De Kock on its books, said they were satisfied to allow him the time, having been kept informed about his status.

“There were question marks about him. I only found out about (De Kock’s withdrawal) on Monday,” said Mpitsang. “Ideally I’d like all the Proteas to play. We all know how important this tournament is, because before that Pakistan series, this is the only cricket that we will play.”

Mpitsang, who said he was yet to speak to De Kock, will meet with the rest of the selection panel; Mark Boucher and Enoch Nkwe, later this week to discuss the issue and how it relates to De Kock’s selection for the Pakistan series in April.

“He communicated with us that he didn’t want to play (in the T20 Challenge,” said Northerns Cricket Union, CEO, Dr. Jacques Faul.

“We are happy for him not to play.”

De Kock has expressed on a number of occasions his discomfort at spending extended periods in bio secure environments. After the second Test against Sri Lanka, he described the endless hours spent in hotels as “unsettling.” As a lover of the outdoors, the ‘bio bubble’ protocols required because of the Covid-19 pandemic, have affected the 28 year old more than most.

De Kock has been in a bio secure environment in one form or another since last September when he went to the IPL in the UAE, then again for the England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan series’ and would have had to go into another one in Durban for the T20 Challenge, one more after that for the Pakistan series following which he’s due to go to India for the 2021 IPL.

Adding to that stress has been the extra workload placed on him; this season in addition to captaining the Proteas limited overs teams, he was also made Test captain, while he was also promoted up the batting order.

Speaking on Monday, CSA’s Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith, said the organisation was sensitive about managing players in bio-secure environments.

“We are trying to manage the players’ mental health; we have questionnaires, we have psychologists involved, we are working closely with the (SA Cricketers Association),” said Smith.

“Some players have it tougher than others; some had two months in the bubble last year, potentially two more months in a bubble in April; that creates its own complications with us. The ’bubble fatigue’, how do you manage the national side when they’ve only played seven or eight games, but they are going to IPL?”

Finding that balance is clearly more challenging for CSA than meets the eye.

The SA Cricketers Association’s CEO, Andrew Breetzke, said Tuesday, the organisation had remained in regular contact with players, and that it would continue to support De Kock.

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