It’s difficult to put into words the excitement of returning to cricket.

When we were at home for more than seven months, we were desperately waiting for this: to get on the field and do what we love again, together. We had our first practice session in Sharjah a few days ago, and when I stepped onto the ground for the first time, it just felt like a dream. I’m not exaggerating. I always knew that I loved playing cricket, but to walk out on the field again and feel that joy, I have never experienced that before.

Maybe that’s because the wait was long. We had nine days of quarantine in Mumbai before six days in Dubai. The quarantine was a situation none of us had ever imagined to be in. What helped us all get through it was the anticipation that we’re going to play again. Staying alone in a room for 15 days is not easy.

The flight (from Mumbai to Dubai) was also a unique experience. It was my first flight in eight months, which is unusual. It just felt good to see a fellow human being after nine days. And that too my friends. I wanted to jump on them but I couldn’t because we had to maintain social distancing. If not for that, I would’ve definitely gone and jumped on each one of them at the airport!

I followed a routine even in quarantine: I would wake up at around 8-8.30; have a light session with a few core exercises; eat breakfast; after that maybe call a friend, play the guitar or pray. After lunch was my Netflix time. At 5pm, we had our gym sessions on Zoom with whatever equipment we had in our rooms before I’d relax with a cup of coffee and some music. And then I would have my dinner while calling Smriti (Mandhana), Harleen (Deol) and the others.

All of us were constantly in touch—thank God for Zoom! In times like these, it is important to stay connected with each other for our mental health. When you have good company, people who you can have fun with, it gets easier.

In the first day of our quarantine, I took diving catches on the bed throwing the ball against the wall. Then a few days later, when we were on one of our Zoom calls, I realised that I could see Harleen from my window. So Harleen and I planned to make a video; we didn’t tell anybody else. After our gym session the next day, I took Harleen’s video standing at my window and she took mine from her window across. It was very spontaneous—we didn’t think much about it; just added some things and put it up.

I gave myself some me-time too. The best part about my room here is that I have a very beautiful view. The one thing I started doing was just sit by the window and play my guitar while savoring the sight. I really loved that feeling of calm. That is something I think I wouldn’t have done if not for the quarantine. Music helps a lot. I call myself blessed that I know how to play the guitar, and I spent a lot of time with it in this period—almost every day.

The first thing I did after our quarantine ended was eat breakfast with my friends. Then we stepped out in the sun—just hanging around on the grass, lying down and chatting. There was a trampoline nearby, so I went there and jumped away. I love trampoline. I just love jumping, actually!

I assumed the quarantine life would be very difficult—I thought I will go mad! But I got a lot of time with myself, to just sit back and get to understand a lot more about myself. I could put a lot of things into perspective; even thinking about the game and what I could have done better. After the T20 World Cup (in March, when India lost the final to Australia), it was too much for us to take mentally. This actually helped me think with a fresh mind. And more than anything else, this has taught me the joy that I feel when I play cricket and just hold the bat. I do value the game, but I wouldn’t have known how much if not for my time in quarantine and the lockdown earlier.

(As told to Rutvick Mehta)

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