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IPL 2021

Laxmipathy Balaji, the Bowling Coach of the Chennai Super Kings tested positive for Covid-19 on the 2nd of May – the last day of action before the 2021 edition of the IPL was suspended due to a growing number of cases amongst players and support staff of the various franchises. Balaji, who recovered on the 14th of May spoke about his battle and fears in the couple of weeks he was down with the virus.

In an interview with Cricinfo, Balaji stated that he was initially in shock when he first tested positive for the virus as he had been very strict with his quarantine and isolation protocols.

“On May 2, I was feeling a bit of uneasiness. I had body ache and a mild nose block. I was tested the same day around mid-afternoon. By May 3 morning, I had tested positive. I was shocked. I had done nothing to breach the norms to endanger mine and the rest of the bubble’s safety.”

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He added that he was scared and could not express his feelings initially. It took him some time to understand the seriousness of what had happened.

“Was I scared? Initially I could not express my feelings. I knew people were dying outside. It took me another 24 hours to sink in the seriousness of issue once family and friends started to message. I started to get worried. From the second day in isolation I realised I had to monitor myself, recording all the health data. I was obviously anxious,” said Balaji

Baaji said that he was worried about the health and safety of his teammates and other members of the contingent as more people started testing positive. He still maintained that he was surprised that the bio-bubble had been broken as everyone had adhered to strict rules and regulations especially after what happened in the UAE last year.

“I was also more worried about the others in my team who I was milling around with before I tested positive. Rajeev Kumar (CSK fielding coach), Robin Uthappa, Cheteshwar Pujara, Deepak Chahar along with Kasi Sir were all around me. So my conscience was battling with the difficult question of what if any of these people tested positive, too? I was praying for their health.”

“Then I came to know that Michael Hussey (Super Kings’ assistant coach), too, had tested positive. Till day we don’t know how or where we contracted the coronavirus. We had a very strict protocol within the bubble from first week of March when CSK’s preparatory camp started. After the experience in 2020 IPL when members of the CSK contingent tested positive, the franchise took maximum precautions even when we travelled from Chennai and Mumbai where we were based for the first leg of our IPL. Even in Delhi we followed the strict protocol. I don’t know where we might have caught the infection: was it at the ground? Was it at the training ground at the Roshanara Club? But that was secluded. And why should only two of us get it,” added Balaji.

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Balaji breathed a huge sigh of relief when he was moved to Chennai from Delhi. He said his confidence was back and mentally he became more optimistic. But he also understood the gravity of the situation outside and what the country was experiencing.

“Once in Chennai the anxiety that had gripped us in Delhi had been replaced by confidence. Mentally we became positive. I started to constantly exchange messages with Hussey and we realised that many were dire situation outside. We were fortunate to be under better care. Eventually after spending about close to 12 days I returned home in Chennai on May 14.”

Balaji concluded by saying that for him the biggest learning was how to survive when adversity hits you the hardest. He added that this was perhaps the most unique challenge he had faced in his career.

“It is a journey of survival is how I look at it. Lakhs of people have been affected, and most of them recovered, but many were not lucky to survive due to different reasons. It has been an intense situation. In my career I have encountered several challenges, but it is a different battle we are going through dealing with the pandemic.”

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