Can it really be an English summer without even village cricket?by Daniel Rey / May 14, 2020 / Leave a comment
“There can be no summer in this land without cricket,” wrote the sportswriter Neville Cardus. This year his maxim might be put to the test.
The coronavirus, which struck like a mystery spinner against an unsuspecting batsman, could bring a season with fewer fixtures then during either of the world wars. Although there were no first-class county matches from 1915-18 or 1940-44, there were still school matches and local cricket. A summer without any at all would be unprecedented since the game’s inception.
Lockdown began in late March, a month before the beginning of the English season, the time when eager youngsters and veterans alike knock-in a new bat or turn their arm over in the garden. Early summer sunshine and warm weather may be a blessing; but for cricketers, the bright skies are sure to bring with them a sense of “what if.” For their clubs, starved of membership dues and takings at the bar, the crisis is financial. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been forced to provide £20m to support the country’s recreational clubs.
As well as funding grassroots cricket, the ECB is also spending £40m to prop up professional counties. Although it will recoup some money from insurance, the ECB estimates that, in the worst-case scenario, the pandemic will cost £380m. Ironically, the ECB’s new commercially-driven tournament The Hundred—which traditionalists argue will kill cricket as we know it—is now needed to resuscitate it. But even The Hundred has not been spared the fallout from Covid-19. In April, the ECB announced that the introduction of its flagship innovation would be postponed until 2021.
This year there will be no cricket until 1st July at the earliest—a week past Midsummer’s Day—and nearly three months after the scheduled start of the season. There is a strong chance that fixtures involving the England women’s team may be sacrificed to prioritise more lucrative matches played by the men. Even these matches may have to take place behind closed doors. Empty stands would severely undercut the game’s finances, but would at least allow the ECB to charge for the broadcasting rights that currently provide three-quarters of its revenue.
Last week, England fast bowler Mark Wood said…