English cricket fans can't wait for the domestic cricket to return

It Ain’t Summer Without English Cricket!

We are told England cricketers feel fitter than ever and they will come back in good shape from the lockdown.

That is according to the team’s nutritionist who has been assessing their progress during isolation.

However, here we are in the first week of June and there are still almost as many questions as there are answers.

Of course, the key question remains ‘when?’.

When the sport fully returns is unclear, even if a summer schedule is in place.

As it stands, international cricket is back on July 8 with England games lined up against the West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and, perhaps, Australia before county cricket possibly returns in August.

Yet the plan to squeeze all internationals into a shortened timetable is one thing. To be able to stage domestic four day and T20 games, which will be played in three regional groups, into a fixed spell is surely even more difficult.

There will certainly be no one-day county competition, while the championship if it takes place, is likely to be just five games per side.

It’s been reported the two sides with the most points across the three pools would then meet for a possible end-of-season final at Lord’s.

It remains to be seen whether this mini-competition constitutes an official County Championship but the results are not expected to have any bearing on next year as regards promotion and relegation.

Meanwhile, the T20 World Cup in October is certain to be postponed.

So that is the picture.

What about affordability?

Well, English cricket’s governing body has revealed a record £228 million turnover for the 2019‑20 financial year due to the success of last year’s Ashes series and the Cricket World Cup.

In fact, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) insists that, even in a worst-case scenario, it has sufficient resources to survive the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

That scenario, incidentally, would see losses of up to £252 million if no cricket is played at all this summer.

As it stands, cricket is set to resume, albeit with a number of safety measures. England will actually be based in a biosecure environment with games only staged at Old Trafford and the Aegeus bowl, while saliva on the ball will be banned.

Of all the measures in place, it would appear the most detailed guidance is being provided to the fast bowlers who face the biggest task reaching peak physical condition given that there is no county cricket scheduled for the start of internationals.

The country’s favourite son, Ben Stokes, may have famously fuelled himself ahead of his match-winning century against Australia at Headingley last year on Nando’s and chocolate bars, but that is not the norm!

Some West Indies’ players, incidentally, have already said they will not travel due to Covid-19 fears.

Batsmen Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo and all-rounder Keemo Paul have opted out of a 25-man touring party.

West Indies arrive on June 9 and will be based at Emirates Old Trafford for initial quarantine and training.

The first Test will then begin on July 8 in Southampton, followed by two Tests at Old Trafford.

Cricket West Indies says players will be tested for coronavirus this week before their scheduled flights to the UK next week.

Of course, there will be no spectators and everybody who is closely involved in the matches will be housed in the on-site hotels that have made this series possible.

Naturally, despite the financial position, the ECB is looking to recoup as much of its £220 million per year broadcast deal as possible, something demonstrated by the lengths it is going to get the West Indies across and also demonstrate to Pakistan, Ireland and Australia that the plan for biosecure matches works.

Such efforts are generally laudable.

Going back to the county game, an existing agreement between the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the 18 first-class counties covered April and May, with salary reductions capped at 20 percent and domestic prize money foregone.

That has now been extended for another two months, in line with the recent announcement by the ECB that there would be no domestic competition before August 1.

Let’s hope the planned restart remains on course for them too. For that is the heartland of cricket.

And it’s not quite summer without cricket!

 

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