England made a decision to prioritise players’ mental health this summer, says limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan.
Series against Ireland, West Indies, Pakistan and Australia were played in bio-secure bubbles and without crowds.
Players and staff were regularly tested for Covid-19 and spent several weeks living in hotels at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester and the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.
“At the very beginning, when cricket looked unlikely during the strictest of lockdown periods, we talked about playing in the bubble and the strain it will take on everybody,” said Morgan.
“The direction and stipulation for that was given by [director of cricket] Ashley Giles.
“I am a massive believer in good leadership starts from the top and filters down to everybody else. Ash said at forefront all of our thinking is everyone’s wellbeing, and for me that was key.”
Morgan, who is currently with Kolkata Knight Riders at the Indian Premier League, told the Test Match Special does the IPL podcast: “My role is quite significant when it comes to mindfulness and topic of mental health.”
‘Buttler leaving the bubble was pivotal’
England batsman Jos Buttler missed the final Twenty20 against Australia in September after leaving the bubble for personal reasons.
Having not seen his family for 10 weeks, he asked Morgan and coach Chris Silverwood to return home.
“Probably one of the most pivotal moments was actually when Jos wanted to come out of the bubble to spend a few days with his family,” Morgan said.
“It’s about creating an environment where someone can come forward and be open and honest about how they’re feeling.
“Take elite performance and international cricket aside – as much as we want to play and, given the times we live in, it’s such an important topic to be able to talk about.”
‘The bit you need to look after is between your ears’
Morgan said there was a strong focus on players returning to fitness when full lockdown restrictions were lifted in the UK.
“Coming out of lockdown, a lot of our squad went absolutely bananas looking after their physical wellbeing and trying to improve their level of fitness,” he said.
“But actually the bit you need to look after is between your ears.
“Be comfortable enough to talk about it and open enough to learn and try new things but also be aware when other things get on top of you.”