South African cricketers are preparing for a summer in “luxury prisons” as they move from one biosecure bubble to the next for the series against England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan (away, potentially and at home) and Australia. Although Kagiso Rabada hopes it will be difficult, he hopes the team can keep perspective on their privilege.

“It can be quite difficult. You cannot interact. You have basically lost your freedom. It is almost like luxury prisons we are in. But we have to remind ourselves that we are lucky,” Rabada said. “People have lost their jobs, people are struggling right now, so we should be grateful for the opportunity we have been given to earn some money and do what we love.

“And they don’t treat us badly. We stay in big hotels. We have the best food. It’s like a spoiled kid who doesn’t get what he wants at the candy store. It can be quite difficult because you’re surrounded by four walls all the time and stuff. It can be a mental factor. But remember all the good things that are happening and once we start playing, it will take away the bleak times. “

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Rabada has just returned from the IPL, where he was in a bubble for 11 weeks, having spent the previous six months in some form of lockdown imposed by the South African government to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. The prolonged period of isolation did not appear to have adverse effects on his game. In fact, the opposite could be argued. Rabada finished the IPL as his best receiver, raising questions about how much he needed a break and how he will fit into more free time in the future.

“Rest helped to refresh the body and to distract the mind from many things,” he said. “But I don’t know if there will be long breaks in the future because cricket is getting more and more. I’m not sure how much is due to a long break, but I don’t think much will happen.” in the future. I don’t think we will have breaks that long unless we get Covid-20. “

The bad joke aside, with a tight schedule on the horizon, Rabada hopes to work with the national management team to make sure he has free time to stay at his best.

“When I first came in, I really wanted to play every game and it’s not that that ambition is gone, but now it’s about being smart,” he said. “You have to realize that there is a long race ahead, there is a lot of cricket and it is about how I can stay fresh. It will take good communication between myself, the coach, the physical trainer and the medical staff. [in when I get time off]. It’s about following the advice of medical personnel and medical personnel who listen to me. “

But it’s also about making sure playing cricket is fun. Rabada attributed some of his excellence in IPL to the nature of the tournament, which is sexier and not as “serious” as international cricket.

“There is a lot more hype for stardom,” he said. “There are great media and content creation teams. There are a lot of fans. International cricket is more serious. Although we have fun in international cricket because you are with guys you know and we have jokes on the team, it is much more serious. The IPL has a little more fun, not to say that there is no fun in international cricket. Of course there is, but I think international cricket has a higher prestige. “

What both forms of the game, the T20 flamboyance and international cricket, have in common for now is that they are played behind closed doors, which, according to Jofra Archer, takes some of the fun out of them. Rabada agreed, but seemed to suggest that viewers had no real impact on the results.

“The crowd plays their part. A great role. We have our fans and they add to the drama. But at the end of the day, if I run into Joe Root, or whoever he is, it’s a competition between him and me,” Rabada said . “The crowd can get you going, but at the end of the day, no one is throwing the ball for you.”

Still, closed doors and long hotel room stays create a “pretty weird” situation where teammates don’t see each other, socialization is limited, and everything is sanitized. “We have to train in groups now. There is a non-contact group and a close contact group,” Rabada said. “The team is adhering to the strict rules that have been put in place well. It’s challenging and really weird.”

And for South Africa, things have already gotten complicated. Two players tested positive for Covid-19 test results since arriving in Cape Town, prompting the cancellation of their practice match within the team. Another round of testing will take place in the run-up to the start of the series on Friday, marking a return to international action in the country for the first time since March. Let the summer of luxury in prison begin.