- Proteas captain Quinton de Kock has spent most of the last five months in a bio-bubble environment.
- He acknowledges the mental and emotional challenges that come with living that way.
- The fans' love for the game and desire to watch cricket, De Kocks adds, make it all easier.
Proteas skipper Quinton de Kock understands the mental and emotional challenges that come with 'bubble life' better than most.
From mid-September through to mid-November last year, De Kock was a key figure in the postponed Indian Premier League for the Mumbai Indians.
With the global coronavirus crisis wreaking havoc in the international sporting community, two-week isolation periods are required for all players and staff involved ahead of such tournaments.
After winning the IPL, hosted in the United Arab Emirates, with Mumbai, De Kock then returned to South Africa and immediately went into another isolation period before entering a biologically safe environment in Cape Town as the Proteas prepared for their limited overs series against England.
Shortly after that, the Proteas were back together in a Gauteng bio-bubble for their two-Test series against Sri Lanka over the festive season and, currently, they are in Pakistan.
Once more, De Kock and the Proteas find themselves isolated, this time in a Karachi hotel ahead of their first Test series in the country in 14 years, which gets underway on January 26.
"I've only been home for a maximum of three weeks over the last five or six months, so it's been tough, but we're soldiering on," De Kock told media from Karachi on Monday.
The skipper, operating in a temporary capacity in the Test side until head coach Mark Boucher and director of cricket Graeme Smith find a permanent solution, is aware of the fact that this was of life will impact some players more than others.
"It's not easy," De Kock said.
"I have said it before that, for some players, it will catch up [with them] from an emotional and mental side.
"It's tough. You try and keep yourself mentally stable and perform for your country all at once and there is only so much of that you can carry on with."
The bigger picture, De Kock added, is what helped keep him level-headed.
"You carry on because you know that back home people want to watch good cricket and they want to watch us perform," he said.
"That is something that keeps you interested and motivated."
The good news is that the Proteas are currently able to train and that Pakistan are not forcing them into two weeks of complete self-isolation.
"It helps that we don't have to do two weeks quarantine. I think going forward, two weeks of quarantine is almost out of the picture because we play so much cricket," he said.
"It's a big help that Pakistan let us come out and start preparing early.
"Our hotel is across the road from our training facilities and then we're only allowed in our rooms and the team room.
"The rooms look quite nice, at least."
After the completion of their Pakistan tour, the Proteas will be back in South Africa where they will again almost immediately have to start preparations for a three-Test series against Australia in February and March.