Anil Kumble on IPL 2020: Managing players' 'mental space' key for support staff

'Managing the bubble, ensuring players' safety will be a task' NurPhoto via Getty Images

It will be a challenge for the "anxious" players to shake off the rust and "get into the groove quickly" during the IPL, while the coaches will have a task on their hands to make sure the players "are in a happy space" in their biosecure bubbles, Kings XI Punjab director of cricket operations Anil Kumble feels.

"The good thing is that, as cricketers, you have an opportunity to play in a safe environment where we are trying to minimise risks. It's new to all of us. As a sportsperson, you tend to adapt to whatever situations you are in," Kumble was quoted as saying by the Times of India. "It's a long period and we are going to Dubai almost three and a half weeks prior to the tournament. This is the first time that an IPL team has got together that early, although all the players won't be there because of their international commitments.

"For a player, it will be a challenge to get into the groove quickly and maintain that because it's going to be a long tournament. IPL has its ups and downs and every team goes through that. So, you have to keep calm and not worry about what happens to the result because if it's a good result, we tend to react to it and if it's a bad one, sometimes we overreact. Keeping a balance will be the key."

"We'd like to see this as a family for the three months that we are together. We are leaving behind our families, so we must make sure the players feel like they're part of this family"

Kumble was speaking on the sidelines of a training session involving Kings XI's large contingent of players from Karnataka - KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, K Gowtham and J Suchith - and agreed that the support staffers would have to play a big role in keeping the players motivated in these extraordinary circumstances.

"Getting used to the SOP will be the biggest challenge," Kumble said. "Health and safety of players and support team will be most important, so we'll have to make sure that everyone follows the SOP. Managing the bubble, ensuring players' safety will be a task. I'm sure there will be times when we'll have to motivate them. It's not easy living in a bubble and we'll have to make sure they're in a happy space. In such a scenario, it's about managing life and the players' mental space rather than cricket because that comes naturally to them once they get onto the field. So, communication will be the key.

"The most important aspect one needs to look at is the anxiety factor. Everybody is anxious. They want to go out and play. You have to sort of pull them back because it's been four months of not doing enough and you cannot go out there and put in your 100% from day one. It's going to be tough for the players to get match ready, we'll build up to it.

"We play a few practice games and that should give them enough confidence. I think it's all about trying to build their confidence and then saying, okay, you're ready. That takes a bit of time. The advantage we have is that we have enough experience in the support team and someone like Andrew Leipus (physio) and Adrian le Roux (strength and conditioning coach) understand these kinds of situations."

And once in the UAE, when the squad members have to go through their mandatory quarantine, the plan is to approach the situation like a "family" and keep everyone occupied and engaged.

"We are trying to build certain activities which will keep them busy," Kumble said. "There'll be some fun and team bonding exercises as well. There is a six-day quarantine as we land, which means for that period we sit in a room, not see each other. We are planning some activities so we will find a way of engaging them and keeping them in a happy space.

"We'd like to see this as a family for the three months that we are together. We are leaving behind our families, so we must make sure the players feel like they're part of this family."

The Kings XI side has 17 Indian players in their ranks, and, apart from Kumble, batting coach Wasim Jaffer, team analyst Ashish Tuli, general manager (cricket operations) Avinash Vaidya and Naresh Kumar, the masseur, are also Indians, so all of them should leave for the UAE together. Of their overseas players, Chris Gayle, who has opted out of CPL 2020, could well join the team early, and Nicholas Pooran should join them in good time after the CPL, but Kings XI might have to set the ball rolling without Glenn Maxwell, who will be with the Australian white-ball squads in England until at least September 16, three days before the IPL kicks off.