Proteas great Dale Steyn says Covid-19 and “bubble life” persuaded him to retire from all cricket earlier than planned.
The 38-year-old, who announced his retirement on Tuesday, had intended to play for a few more years in T20 leagues around the world.
But, in a lengthy interview with RMS Advisory Global, Steyn said the Covid-19 pandemic had taken away everything he most enjoyed about playing cricket and affected his mental health.
“Fitness is not an issue and four overs, at max, max pace is no drama,” he said. “What eventually became really relevant to me, despite really wanting to carry on playing, was the loneliness of it.
“When I played in the South African team I had a whole bunch of brothers. I felt and I was part of a chain of great people and it’s what made me really good, knowing there were guys around me who were just as good, and we were always pushing ourselves to get better. I feel like that played a major role in me taking as many wickets as I did.
“But once you become like this freelance cricketer, in reality, it was probably something I just wouldn’t be able to do. It’s a very lonely job during Covid times, too. You have to train three to four weeks before the tournament starts by yourself. You don’t have your teammates with you. It really becomes difficult to travel by yourself now. You get into a hotel, you have to quarantine, again by yourself. And then you finally get to do the playing in a team, but everything is taken away from you because you’re not allowed to go here, not allowed to go there … my wings weren’t just clipped, they were taken away. The things I enjoyed most about playing cricket – having great experiences with new teammates and making new friends, sharing them with family – it was all taken away.
“Bubble life is no joke,” Steyn added, “it has a major strain on your mental capacity, and I think you will see a lot more players pulling out of things like leagues and taking time away purely because they start to realise that this is not great.
“We’ve seen it in other individual sports like tennis and golf. I’m not sure the cricket world has paid sufficient attention to it, but we’re going to see a lot more of it, because the bubble life is not an easy one to be a part of.”
Steyn said he planned to stay involved in cricket, first as a commentator and later as a coach.
“I’ll probably just talk about the game a little bit for now and then, hopefully, upskill myself to a point where potentially one day I could do some serious coaching.
“No real plans on coaching teams or anything right now, but I played cricket my entire life and I feel like I’ve got a great skill and I’d like to be able to deliver that message.
“I’ll get better at it, and then try to make, you know, good cricketers great. I’d love to be able to do that one day.”