Australia will have to find new ways to deal with bubble fatigue as they embark on a defining year of Test cricket and world title hunts.
While 2020 was Australia’s quietest year since 1996 with only 25 matches played across all formats, 2021 shapes up far differently.
Uncertainty still surrounds the early months, with Australia’s tour of South Africa hanging by a thread depending on what COVID-safe protocols can be put in place.
But regardless, Australia will still be eying the World Test Championship final in June, having made it their chief priority for the past 18 months.
Under the new ladder – determined by percentages due to COVID-19 scheduling issues – Australia still lead with India, New Zealand and England chasing.
A series win against India this summer would all but secure a top-two spot, and a place in that final.
Beyond that, Australia will then turn their eyes to Twenty20 cricket with tours of the West Indies and Sri Lanka before a World Cup in the format in India in October.
An all-important Ashes series then awaits at home next summer as Australia aim to retain the urn, as well as the historic one-off Test against Afghanistan.
In total, it means Australia’s players could spend up to 21 weeks inside national hubs.
That figure also doesn’t include any time spend in hotel quarantine or while away in the IPL, making for another long year for players already showing signs of bubble fatigue.
“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge,” Australia’s assistant coach Andrew McDonald said.
“We don’t necessarily have the solutions at the moment for that but we need to find different ways to freshen our players up and make sure that isn’t a factor in performance.
“That’s the key thing, everything we do has to have a performance edge to it, and also a life-balance edge.
“One of the biggest things in bubble life is a lot of your autonomy gets taken away from you as a human being, that’s one thing we love.
“We love waking up in the morning and being able to make decisions for ourselves whereas bubble life really dictates to you how that day will unfold.”
Australia’s players were given some reprieve from the bubble in Melbourne this week.
Partners who had been in Sydney in mid-December were finally allowed to enter the hub on Thursday night having served quarantine.
It allowed Steve Smith to see his wife Dani for the first time in more than four months.