By Richard Edwards
7th August 2020
As recreational cricket returned to something approaching a new normal on a long- awaited weekend in July, clubs up and down the country looked forward to making up for lost time.
In some areas of the country, though, that process is taking longer than anticipated, with the Leicestershire and Rutland League a prime example. Cricket was given the green light to resume on July 11, just eight days after a ‘local lockdown’ was introduced in Leicester, following a climb in Covid-19 cases in the city.
It’s a situation that Leicester still finds itself in, which is severely hampering some cricket clubs and a large number of cricketers who operate and play in the impacted area. It’s also leaving Nigel Kinch, the chairman of the league, working exceptionally long days.
“We’re having constant conversations, regular zoom chats, and people are ringing us up all the time and asking us questions,” he says. “A lot of them we simply can’t answer because there are so many grey areas – all we can do is follow the guidelines from the government and those provided by the ECB. We’re not politicians or scientists are we? In the main, all the clubs have been very patient.”
Patience has been one of the key attributes during a year like no other and it may be needed in Leicester for some time to come. The next review of the situation is scheduled to take place on August 13 and although some areas of the city have already seen their restrictions loosen, there is unlikely to be a wholesale lifting of lockdown. Meaning that those players and clubs in the worst hit areas will still not be able to play matches, despite being allowed to train.
“We are well behind the rest of the country,” admits Kinch. “We organised 21 divisions of six, playing for the remainder of the season and clubs obviously entered without knowing that Leicester was going to be placed in an additional lockdown.
“There are friendlies going on but from a cricketing perspective, we haven’t been dealt the kindest of hands.”
That’s something of an understatement and is particularly true for the parks cricket, which is played, in the main, by large numbers of Leicester’s South Asian community. With the parks within the city remaining closed, there is little prospect of that getting underway for the foreseeable future.
A kind spell of weather in September may provide some opportunities for matches, but it could be 2021 until large swathes of Leicester’s cricket community straps on their pads in anger again. Kinch tells the CCC that he is in regular contact with the local council to ensure that everyone is kept as up to date as possible with the situation. And that’s one of the key take-outs for cricket this summer – even if there is no news, then communicating that message is better than giving no updates at all.
It’s that focus on next year, though, that means the rules are – by and large – being adhered to, despite the desperation of club cricketers to see some action before the summer disappears completely.
“This isn’t about the cricket,” he says. “We all want to play but if we don’t get rid of the virus then we might not be playing cricket again next year either. We have to stick to the guidelines we’ve been given because it’s the best way of achieving both of those aims. A large number of cricketers can’t play at the moment and although you hear the odd grumble, you do get a real sense that people are staying at home and doing the right thing.
“You might want a game of cricket but if you’re turning up and infecting other people, who then take it home to their families, then it’s not hard to build a case for being sensible is it? Yes, of course cricket matters but when people are dying, as they have been doing, then you have to look at the bigger picture.”
Other areas of the country are facing similar restrictions, providing additional complications for cricket leagues during an already tumultuous year. Clubs in the Luton area have been in touch with Kinch to see how Leicester has dealt with the situation, and there’s a real sense that the approach taken by the league has been one that other parts of the country can learn from.
Those players champing at the bit to get out and play will hope that next week brings some welcome news. In the meantime, patience, rather than cricket, is the name of the game.