Cricketers from west more likely to have mental health issues: Misbah on playing in bio-bubble

Pakistan head coach and former captain Misbah-ul-Haq believes that players from “western countries” are more likely to be hit by mental health issues if cricket is continued to be played in a strict bio-secure environment.

Pakistan themselves played in a bio-bubble created for their England tour in August.

The almost two-month long IPL is also being held in a protected environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Yes it is an issue about players and team officials facing mental health issues if cricket continues to be played like it is being held right now. As far as Pakistan is concerned I think our players due to their social environment are mentally very strong so they can get through this period.

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“But yes I believe in the long run, players and officials from western countries could be facing more such problems because their culture is different from ours, Misbah said in an interview to the Cricket Baaz channel on You Tube.

He noted that in Pakistani culture socialising was done differently but in western countries people were used to going out.

“For them I think this existing Covid-19 environment that has been created to ensure cricket is played is more of a challenge,” he added.

He said the restricted and isolated conditions on the England tour were difficult for the players but from a cricket point of view it also helped the Pakistani players and officials a lot.

“I think it was good for us because communication improved between management and players, the players were supporting each other a lot and generally the bonding in the team improved a lot.”

But Misbah said the sooner things normalised the better because if the Covid-19 threat continued for more months, it would create uncertainty as to how big events would be played and in what environment.

“Staying indoors all the time, movement being restricted and not being able to go out with freedom do take a toll on the players and even officials.”

He also made it clear that while he had decided to step down as chief selector for a number of reasons, he had every intention of completing his three-year tenure as head coach.

“I have completed one year in the job and there are a lot of things to be positive about.

“There has been development and progress in the team and more importantly I can say with confidence that the mindset and approach of the players to white ball cricket has changed for the better.

Misbah said that what satisfied him was the same mind set and approach was also visible among domestic players in the recent National T20 Championship.

To a question, he conceded that Pakistan is following England’s path in preparing for the coming World Cups with a changed mindset and increasing the pool of players available to play for Pakistan.

“Yes I think we are on that path the talent we have now and it is increasing. I can safely say that by early next year after the Pakistan Super League we will have a pool of players who can serve us well in the three World Cups in 2021, 22 and 23.”

On his decision to step down as chief selector, Misbah insisted it was his own decision as he wanted to focus more on coaching.

“Secondly I had discussed with the PCB I will review both my positions after a year and take it from there. I want to now totally focus on coaching, he said.

Misbah reiterated the PCB did not force him to step down as chief selector.

When pressed he did concede that one more factor that influenced his decision was that it was not easy being with players and trying to extract performances from them in dual roles.

“At times it becomes difficult because after all as a head coach one has to get performances from the players.”

Misbah also rubbished conspiracy theories about wanting to prematurely end the career of former captain and wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed who has been dropped for the home series against Zimbabwe.

“Why would I want to do that? What do I have against him. If we wanted to end his career we would not have given him a central contract and just told him to go and play domestic cricket and try to come back.

“But we realised that even though Muhammad Rizwan is performing exceptionally well but we still don’t have a back-up or replacement who we can count on for experience and performances.

“Remember we need a proper back up or all three formats even now.”

Misbah said he himself had had one to one discussions with Sarfaraz and emphasised that he remained a top player and he just needed to pick himself up and one good innings can turn things around for him.