STUMPED: Local cricket clubs give their take on the COVID-19 pandemic
The weather gods have certainly been teasing the cricketers in the Furness area during the lockdown period. The normal wet, windy and chilly early season weather is replaced by uncharacteristically hot sunny conditions. The wickets were hard and true. Lightning fast outfields. Club bars should have be bustling with cricket fans enjoying basking in the hot sun watching our beloved sport unfurl below sharp azure skies.
Alas, due to circumstances this has not been possible, it has been left to local groundsmen to tend their patches with loving care preparing and waiting for any chance of cricket starting again.
The longer this goes on, the more unlikely any cricket in the format we are used will not take place. A possibility of reduced number games 8v8, if safe to do so seems the most likely outcome, but time will tell.
Sport Furness has gathered the thoughts of clubs in the area on what the impact lack of cricket could have on clubs, and the knock effect on player numbers:
Pete Lawson from Furness CC had hoped this would be a season to remember for all the right reasons. Sadly he fears it is turning into a year they will want to forget!
“Recreational cricket and recreational sport in general is big part of people’s lives especially in a small working class town such as Barrow” he said. “At Furness Cricket Club we had lots planned for 2020 and things came to a stop very fast and I never expected to experience anything like what we are experiencing now, I don’t think anyone could see a whole UK club season potentially being cancelled outside of wartime!”
On the subject of future play, like many in the game he views it as a waiting game. “We are currently 2 weeks into reduced numbered training which started off on a 1 two 1 basis and moved onto groups of 5 this week, this will alter to allow larger groups and hopefully 8 v 8 local cricket games will be the first option on returning to actually playing against another club once or If government guidelines allow
“IF recreational cricket doesn’t return this summer I believe it will have a huge knock on affect down the line in a system that is already fragile with regards to numbers participating, plenty of older players will struggle to get back into it next summer after one and a half years off; plus the younger ones who are still finding their feet may not return to the game after such a long time off! We are very keen at Furness to get as many as safely possible training in hope of keeping as many as possible engaged in the game we love”.
Similar thoughts were echoed by Barrow CC captain Glenn Kermode.
“We should be 10 games into our first season in the palace shield by now, however like with everything, Covid-19 put a stop to that. As a club, we haven’t been able to host any cricket games or functions which has been a shame. We had been scheduled to host two Cumberland CC games this year, the first time in a while, however these have been postponed. We are still hopeful we can host one game if the restrictions are lifted. “
Should such an easing allow play to continue, Glenn is confident the club would be ready to go. As a club, they have ensured communication is key, filtering down any information from the England and Wales Cricket Board as it arises. Like many, they have also been utilising video conference software to hold committee meetings and plan for lockdown easing.
Over the last few weeks, he tells us, the club have introduced one to one sessions with coaches and juniors, with under 16s and seniors starting next week with sessions of up to six people. He describes it as a “relief” for the players and parents to be able to get back on the field and do some sort of training even if it’s limited.
As for the ground and pitch, Glenn was full of praise: “Jack our head groundsman and a small number of ground staff have been keeping the ground is excellent shape so we will be ready to go if we get the go ahead.”
“My personal opinion is we’d be lucky to play cricket this season as there are a number or factors to consider but I remain upbeat and hopefully. If we do play then it’ll probably be 20/20 fixtures which will be good. Fingers crossed some sort of junior cricket can be played locally to keep all juniors interested as well.”
Meanwhile, Gareth Benson, of Vickerstown CC, was quietly optimistic about the future of the game in the local area. “We were looking forward to the season over at Rainey Park, as we had more players available than we’ve had in a few years. The junior section was strong, we’d even managed an indoor game v Lindal Juniors back in February.
“Around the club we’ve taken the opportunity with no cricket in place to dig up and remove the old artificial pitch replacing with grass. Creating an area for the covers to be safely stored and tidying up the Mill Lane end of the ground.
“We’re not sure what format the game will restart in, but looking forward to competitive cricket and the chance to socialise with the other teams again.
“Hopefully all the Cumbrian clubs will survive these difficult times, and who knows it may even reinvigorate the local leagues as it may make people more aware of the restricted years they can play and come back for one last hurrah. The league may have to look at professionals in the leagues as well, as clubs may not be financial strong enough to support one after all this is over.”