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Proteas skipper determined to make bubble environment work

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It is a unique and challenging environment, but one all the players need to make work after the calamitous end to the England tour last month.

OPEN ARMS: Quinton de Kock will welcome former captain Faf du Plessis with open arms. Picture: BackpagePix.

JOHANNESBURG – Proteas captain Quinton de Kock says the players have a responsibility to ensure the measures in place for the ‘bio bubble for the Sri Lanka Test series are not breached.

BUILDING team spirit and bonds ahead of the Test series with Sri Lanka is proving to be challenging for the new Proteas Test captain Quinton de Kock, owing to restrictions placed on the players in the bio-secure environment.

Until Tuesday’s round of Covid-19 tests are complete, the Proteas won’t be able to train as a single group, nor even meet for face-to-face chats. Currently the squad is broken up into groups of six, made up of batsmen, bowlers and a member of the coaching staff. Those separate groups train together and eat together, but do not mix with the other groups. If everyone returns negative tests, something akin to normal training sessions can resume from Wednesday.

The stricter measures are linked to the lessons Cricket SA learned from the England series last month, when a more lax ‘bio bubble’ than what CSA had in mind was employed to accommodate the English, whose players had expressed concerns over ‘bubble fatigue’ having spent their own season with their movement restricted.

As a result, De Kock hasn’t had the chance to meet some of his new teammates. “We’re still getting to know everyone, and we’re still here in quarantine times, and because of certain protocols we’re not able to meet the guys yet and get to know them.”

Those protocols also forbid mingling with the Sri Lankan players, who are staying at the same hotel as the Proteas. “We can see them, but they’ve got their area and there are boundaries for ours too.”

It is a unique and challenging environment, but one all the players need to make work after the calamitous end to the England tour last month. The world is watching and with Cricket SA currently in talks with their Australian counterparts about the Test series that is scheduled to be hosted here in February/March next year, South Africa can ill-afford any mishaps with the ‘bio bubble’ for the Sri Lankan series.

“We’ve got that bit of responsibility, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle,” said De Kock. “The rest of it is just a small part in which we can help out for future tours about bubble life (in South Africa) and Covid times … the rest is up to the administration. We must make sure the bubble is safe, which is all we can do for now.”

Mickey Arthur said he was very happy with the arrangements made for his team. “This is as a good a bubble as you could hope to have,” said Arthur, who became Sri Lanka’s head coach a year ago.

“The arrangements are very good, security is very tight. We are tested every third day. It is very different but touring will be like that for a while. We are very comfortable and very happy with the arrangements that Cricket SA have put in place,” said Arthur.

For South Africa, this series is about getting revenge for that shocking 2-0 loss here last year. “We’ve got a lot we need to rectify,” said De Kock. “They hurt us on our own grounds and we want to win this series convincingly.”

Tied in with that, is the need for the players to put in performances that will lead to stability in terms of selection, which hasn’t been the case for the Proteas in the Test format in the last 18 months. “There are young guys here that need to learn and learn fast,” De Kock remarked.

“When I compare our team to the rest of world cricket; if you (look at) Australia, India or England, those guys’ teams are sorted, they’re solid in their line-ups. We are young, but we need the younger players to come through and learn fast so that we can have a structured team. That’s what I hope for, for this season.”