The past two weeks have been hugely frustrating for us domestic cricketers. The relaxing of lockdown measures has seemingly accelerated the potential returns of numerous sports and whilst the international return to test cricket against the West Indies looks to be progressing nicely at this point, it feels like domestic cricketers have been forgotten.
As reported in recent Secret Cricketer pieces, this viewpoint seems to be shared amongst domestic players. It is particularly disheartening hearing about the village and club cricketers return to the nets in the past weeks whilst professional county cricketers continue to sit on the couch!
It is of course understandable that the England group have recently returned to training and fingers crossed that process goes smoothly. Naturally, international cricket is the priority – as it should be, however, for those that missed out on that huge 55-man training squad, it is frustrating not being able to train or play, meaning domestic players with international ambition are left even further behind!
It seems that financial issues surrounding the much talked about furlough scheme is the crucial problem. The argument could be that counties would be unable to support player wages whilst cash flow is still an issue without competitive action and spectators.
If so, why is it that rugby union have been given the green light from the government to return to training whilst still being on the furlough scheme? This is a huge advantage and means that we would potentially be much closer to returning to domestic competition if we are able to train imminently. You would hope that these questions have been asked but it is difficult to see the difference between the club rugby game and county cricket in this example.
It feels a little embarrassing when friends and family ask me why I’m not playing; ‘Surely you’re training now that contact sports are coming back’, they ask. I helplessly waffle a diplomatic reply to try and protect and respect our game but really I completely agree, despite some questionable cricket knowledge from some friends. Cricket is a sport that lends itself to social distancing isn’t it? And that’s playing a match, let alone some individual or small group training!
It seems the ECB are desperate to get the international return to run smoothly and make sure those series go ahead. From a financial perspective in particular that is understandable and will help protect the state of the entire game moving forward.
However, as yet, the communication to domestic players has been very minimal. Many of us discovered about the potential regionalised T20 and County Championship campaigns through social media and newspapers.
As a sports fan, the return of the Premier League, horseracing, F1, tennis etc. in the coming weeks is great news. County cricket is in need of similar good news but as it is, I am envious and frustrated at the club cricketers shaking off the rust this week with their first net in months.