Passion, Patience and Practicalities – Notts project captures Cricket’s Covid Year
Every cricket season brings its own challenges, changes – and champions – but the summer of 2020 and the Covid outbreak was, in a particularly apposite phrase, ‘in a different league’!
A team from Nottinghamshire’s Heritage Group is just a few weeks away from a full year, monitoring ‘Cricket & Covid’. The volunteers have spoken to players, officials and administrators across the county to see how the recreational game coped and to get the lowdown on the lockdown.
Thus far, and the project continues, they have taken more than 100 contributions with many physical artefacts – masks, sanitisers, sample notices etc – as well as interviews and submissions. Eventually, it will become an important archive for future historians and cricket lovers but it has also generated articles on the Trent Bridge website and in the local Nottingham press.
If the media attention had been focused on the international game and the two surviving county competitions – the Bob Willis Trophy and the Vitality Blast – for most club cricketers the focus was primarily on the chances of playing any sort of cricket and just what that might look like.
What came across right from those first few contacts – when it seemed there would be no cricket played at all – was the passion for the game and a determination to see out the restrictions and get back onto the cricket pitch.
“There was a hunger for cricket that we didn’t expect”, said the chairman of Gedling & Sherwood CC – one of the many people to reflect on how the threat to cricket at the start of the 2020 summer seemed to sharpen appetites for the game.
Having heard the Prime Minister describe the cricket ball as one of the ‘vectors of disease’, club cricketers were, in early July, suddenly faced with the opportunity to resurrect a season that had looked lost – the Government changed its advice and said that recreational cricket could be played.
Played, of course, subject to new rules and regulations. Cricket and cricketers needed to respond – and to do so very quickly.
A typical response was that of the Bassetlaw League, which was re-formed into a streamlined competition, and the Nottinghamshire Premier League delivered the Dan Sutton Trophy, with a final played at Hucknall in front of a (socially distanced) crowd bigger than any in a more ‘normal’ season. Other leagues around the county worked with determination and a flexible approach to get cricket back on the parks and grounds of Nottinghamshire.
Peter Smith, one of the Cricket & Covid volunteers at Trent Bridge, points out that local, recreational cricket had to move as quickly, and as with as much resilience, as the national game – without the staff and resources. “The county club did a great job”, he said, “but they could not have managed without that army of unpaid cricket volunteers – players, officials and administrators – being dedicated to getting our game available for as many people as possible.
“What they proved is that cricket, which still has a rather staid image in some peoples’ minds, can be nimble, flexible and creative. Clubs can and will react very fast”.
That love of the game, the ‘hunger to play’ was evident right across the spectrum of players, clubs and leagues that were surveyed. “We were just grateful to get some cricket”, was the most common response.
It was, said Peter Smith, a mixture of a passion to play, a willingness to be patient whilst things were agreed and a practical approach to the changes that were necessary. “Bringing your own tea, sanitising the ball, taped off club houses, no high-fives…all things that made Cricket in the time of Covid a very different game but as the new season is upon us, the recreational game in Notts is in very good shape.
“But we all hope that the new season brings the challenges we expect from the summer game…that’ll be all the excitement we need for a good year”.
The Cricket & Covid project is still gathering evidence and if you would like to be part of the history of cricket in 2020, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 March 2021.