Sports all around the world have been greatly affected by the current global pandemic, perhaps none more so than cricket, traditionally played in England from late April until the end of Summer. A scheduled tour to Sri Lanka has already been cancelled and a home test series against West Indies in May is much in doubt. On the domestic circuit, the first seven rounds of the County Championship have been postponed, and in all likelihood, The Hundred will not debut this summer. But the effects are more widespread, with the ECB banning all forms of recreational cricket until further notice.
Village cricketers all across the country will be devoid of the opportunity to take a five-for on a green pitch in April; those who bat low down the order and are never entrusted by their captains to bowl will go without the glorious teas that revitalise them following yet another fated duck; the aged spectators will miss the chance to sit in the shade and admire the beauty of their local cricket ground. As an (average) cricket player and fan myself, I share their frustrations. No post-game pints in our hospitable local pub, late evening net sessions on the square or banter in the slip cordons. No trips to Lords, games of bowls around the boundary rope and homemade scones.
Despite our shared sadness at the potential loss of a whole season of cricket, it is rewarding to witness how the cricket community has responded to the difficulties posed by Covid-19. The England captain, Joe Root, has remained transparent and open with media when asked about the potential changes to player salaries. All centrally contracted players have voluntarily pledged to donate 20% of their wages for the next six months to help the game and the wider community. Counties have taken an active role in volunteering; just today, I saw a photo Essex captain, Simon Harmer, preparing meals for NHS workers. The First XI captain at my club has organised an excellent online quiz for members to enjoy and our social media account has been advertising the takeaway food our post-game pub has on offer. It seems, at least, that the essential spirit of the game is living on.
With the summer of cricket we experienced last year – highlights including: England winning a home World Cup, Ben Stokes single-handedly saving the 3rd Ashes Test at Headingley and another thrilling T20 Finals Day – we at least have some fantastic memories to revisit and savour during these troubling times.