The cricket season hadn’t even begun on English soil when Boris Johnson announced the nationwide lockdown in March. The England team soon flew home from Sri Lanka and the ECB announced there would be no cricket in the country until May 28th at the earliest, meaning Gloucestershire’s return to the top flight of county cricket was put on hold.
As some restrictions are eased, fans are starting to look towards what cricket could look like post-lockdown but the cricketing landscape is a very different one to what we enjoyed so much last summer.
Many people are of the belief that cricket is one of the few sports that can resume, whilst maintaining appropriate social distancing, minus the between ball chat halfway up the wicket.
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Players will have been preparing for the opening set of Royal London one day Cup matches when the lockdown came into effect, so I can understand the need for professionals to get back out there and build up to match sharpness, something Jack Russell feels has been a challenge for players to do in lockdown.
“If I was still playing professional cricket then things would have to change drastically,” former Gloucestershire and England cricketer Jack Russell explains.
“No matches, staying isolated, trying to stay fit. We would have just had to get on with it as best we could, as the people involved in all sports are doing now. “
It is clear there is a desire to get the season up and running as the ECB look to favour the white ball season over the red, however, is it really necessary? Ultimately health has to come first you have to look beyond the players who will be taking to the field. You have to consider their family members, the staff around the ground, and everyone who is required at the match. It’s not just the players.
A prime example of this would be England captain Joe Root, his wife is currently pregnant, would he really want to put her and their unborn child at risk? You’d have to forgive him if he was to say he didn’t want to play in these unprecedented times!
On the other hand, there is the case for play resuming as soon as possible. Gloucestershire County Cricket Club were set to return to Division One of the County Championship after a 15-year absence. However, their return has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With no cricket being played the financial implications have been huge with as many staff as possible being made in-active to maintain the club. Cheteshwar Pujara was set to be one of their marquee signings in their return to the top flight but he will no longer be joining the club. However, the club are adamant they can still break even if no balls are bowled.
The Hundred was set to be another format of the game introduced this summer, with franchise cricket finally arriving in the UK. The competition has been shelved until 2021 despite big-name signings from oversees. Gloucestershire star Benny Howell had a very lucrative contract with Birmingham Phoenix so you might expect him to have very different views on the cancellation of the season.
Cricket may be able to resume earlier than other sports given the way social distancing can be maintained but does anyone really want to see cricket played behind closed doors?
Let me take you back to last summer. Scenes of unbridled joy as Ben Stokes hit the winning runs at Headingley, Gloucestershire’s promotion to the top division, and England’s triumph in the World Cup final in the most dramatic of fashion. These moments fed off the emotion of the crowd and they wouldn’t be the same without the fans urging the players on.