KOCHI: If everything goes according to plan, Sandeep Warrier will be among the cricketers expected to be in action when the Indian Premier League gets underway in the UAE next month.
And the Kolkata Knight Riders pacer is as ready as ever, saying that he is in the best shape of his life.
However, while the 29-year-old's motivation and focus didn't diminish during the forced time away from the game due to the pandemic, events unfolding across the world have lent him a broader perspective.
"For us as cricketers, the big worry was that we aren't getting to play, not able to train, do the gym etc. But look around the world and you read news about people going without food, people losing their jobs and so many deaths and tragedy. COVID-19 taught us that life is more than just about cricket and showed how lucky we are," said Sandeep.
However, as sportspersons are used to active lifestyles involving travel and being outdoors for long durations, Sandeep admitted that he faced some issues initially.
"There was some stress and tension for the first two-three weeks when the outbreak started and the lockdown was imposed, but then I got into a routine and things have been going well. I have a gym at home and have been working out and even managing my diet well. I'm in the best shape of my life and this time also helped me to work on the weaknesses in my game," he said.
Talking about IPL and the prospect of playing in empty stadiums, the speedster from Kerala feels that the intensity of the games will not drop.
"First of all, the fact that IPL is even gonna happen at such a time is a big deal. Secondly, the first preference should be the health of the players and the support staff. There will be at least 700-800 people involved in the event and their health should be the first priority. We should just think of how to conduct the tournament in the best possible way under the current circumstances. Obviously, we won't be able to see it in the same grand manner that it's been happening all these years. But the England-West Indies and England-Pakistan matches showed that even without fans, we can have great games of cricket. And those were Test matches but every session was interesting."
Having played in empty stadiums during Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments, lack of spectators is something he's familiar with. The one thing that he might need getting used to is the saliva ban.
"We have to adapt to the rules and regulations because health is the primary concern right now. We'll have to find ways to be efficient without making it an excuse. Who knows, the ball might reverse a little earlier without saliva. We'll learn as we go along," he said.
Sandeep has been making a mark in the domestic circuit for Kerala in the last few years and thanks to his performances in recent seasons, he was invited by Tamil Nadu to represent them.
Having been based in the state for nearly a decade and with better chances of domestic success, it was a no-brainer for Sandeep to team up with Dinesh Karthik, who is coincidentally also his skipper at KKR.
"I've been playing the league tournaments in Tamil Nadu for the past eight years and I'm based out of here. I know most of the guys well and it will be an easy transition for me," said Warrier.
Sandeep and his KKR team-mates are expected to travel to the UAE on August 20.