Chairman's blog - 24 July
Posted on 24th July 2020 at 14:44
It has been more than a couple of weeks since I wrote a blog – rather longer than I would like – but a lot has happened in that time. When I last wrote, ECB had been confident that the ‘vector of disease’ issue could be addressed, only for their hopes to be dashed the following week by the PM stating on LCB radio that the main issue was around teas and use of clubhouses. After that, things moved very quickly, and agreement was reached that recreational cricket could restart on 11 July. The concern was then about the allowed format.
Fortunately, when the Return to Play protocol was released, it stipulated that 11-a-side cricket could be played, without limit to overs, but of course with the anticipated rules on distancing, sanitising, teas and use of the clubhouse. This enabled us to set up a meaningful and competitive 40-over competition, with the teams in two groups, roughly geographically split. The winners of the two groups will play off in the final in September.
There was a plethora of different guidance and advice for clubs to follow, and we organised two ‘return to play’ videoconferences for clubs. At the first, the day before we got the final go-ahead for play, we agreed on the format to be played, in addition to running through some of the guidance and answering questions. As we had elected to play a 40-over competition, it made sense to use the Royal London Cup rules, with which clubs are familiar through the national Knock-Out and Viking cups. One issue that was raised at that first meeting concerned kit. RLC games are normally played with a white or pink ball and coloured clothing – but the coloured clothing is usually club kit, and the suggestion was made that if instead we used ‘whites’, the players could use their own kit, and be responsible for washing it themselves. That made eminent sense, so we agreed there and then.
Matt Summerhill had already done a lot of work on fixtures, and it certainly helps that he also organises the SYSCL fixtures. He was able to announce the groupings at that first meeting, and the fixtures followed a couple of days later. Matt certainly did a remarkable job in a short space of time, and I have recorded my sincere thanks to him for all his efforts. With fixtures, you will never please everyone – all you can do us to adopt a logical formula and be fair to everyone. Matt certainly has done that. His is a job not many would want, and we are lucky to have him.
In the week before we started playing, I participated in another ECB Premier League chairmens’ videoconference. At the meeting the week before, I had expressed my view that we needed to have some dispensation to allow batsmen to use a designated changing room for ‘padding up’. I could not believe that some of my colleagues thought it ok to ask the batsmen to put on their box and thigh-pad in a car, or, as a couple actually said, behind a bush or behind the pavilion! We were talking about Premier League cricket, for heaven’s sake. Simon Widdup puts it in perspective – in the UK, Premier League cricket is the third tier of the game – behind first class and 2nd XI/’minor counties’ – so it roughly equates to League One in football. It is the highest level of ‘the recreational game’. Fortunately, common sense has prevailed, and a designated dressing room can now be used by one batsman at a time.
We were given the news that cricket could return on 3 July, and we took the decision to start our competition on 18 July, thus leaving the clubs 11 July for practice/friendlies. Our neighbours in Derbyshire actually started on 11 July – they had obviously gambled on getting permission in time, and thankfully it paid off for them. We held our final VC for clubs on 10 July, just to give them feedback from the ECB meetings and ensure that there were no issues that needed addressing. The response from clubs was really positive and all said they were ‘ready to go’. We gave them flexibility in terms of start times and reducing overs, provided both captains were in agreement, and flexibility to temporarily register players whose clubs were not going to be playing, or who wanted to play for a club nearer home.
Unfortunately, after all the good weather we have had, 18 July dawned wet and overcast. But we got play in all games and, thanks to our friends Duckworth and Lewis, all achieved results. The umpires gave us some excellent feedback about how everyone had responded to the sanitising and distancing rules and everything passed off as well as it could in the circumstances. The combination of managing the sanitising breaks, calculating reduced overs, adjusting powerplays, and using DLS made it potentially a nightmare scenario – but with a few relatively minor issues, everything went as well as we could have hoped.
On Monday night, we had another VC, this time at committee level, to review how everything had gone, and look at any issues that had arisen. After that, I wrote to clubs and updated them, including a few minor suggestions. Steve took away some issues to discuss with his merry band of scorers, and Simon some umpiring points. At the meeting we also agreed on Wakefield Thornes as the venue for the final on 19 September, and to name the trophy on offer as the Jack Bland Trophy, after the well-known and highly-respected South Yorkshire cricket coach and administrator, who sadly passed away earlier in the year.
A few days earlier, much to my surprise, we were contacted by MCC about our annual under 23s game in August. I had thought that this would be a victim of the current situation, but MCC want to fulfil some of their domestic programme this year, and would like to play us. Alex Fletcher has kindly agreed to manage our team, and we agreed that if necessary, to ensure we could field a full XI, we would be flexible about the ‘under 23’ aspect. The game is to take place at Abbeydale on Thursday 6 August (11.00am) and we have asked clubs to nominate players for consideration.
Yesterday, Chris Froggett contacted me to say that one of his players, who played in their game at Hallam last Saturday, had subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 – despite having no symptoms. Paul Bedford at ECB quickly provided the guidance that we needed, and we were able to advise Hallam and the match umpires last weekend that, provided they had adhered to government and Return to Play protocols, there would be no cause for concern. I also spoke to Alex at Whitley Hall about Saturday’s game against Thornes. Whitley’s players were not comfortable about playing the game under the circumstances, and we agreed a postponement. We have said throughout that we would not force anyone to do anything they were not comfortable in the current climate. I would like to thank Chris for the co-operative and responsible way that he and his club have dealt with the issue.
Away from cricket, I have decided to relinquish some of my rugby responsibilities. I will continue to act as Rovers’ club historian and maintain statistics for them, as well as contributing website articles and presentations as required, but I am standing down from the Community Trust board and the Heritage committee. I increasingly find that my time is under pressure – and I want to shed responsibility for having to organise things and be at meetings. I expect that next season will be a busy one cricket-wise, and that is my priority!
Next Tuesday, I go into hospital flor a small procedure to take some internal biopsies. After that, my 14 days’ isolation will end, and I look forward to seeing the grandchildren again, to getting to my first cricket matches of the season, and perhaps even a quick trip to the Goodmanham Arms! I have devised a programme to get round all our grounds in the time available (two at a time, weather permitting) and on 1 August I will be at Tickhill and Wickersley – the latter much to Andy Harrison’s displeasure I must add, as he regards my presence as ‘the kiss of death’ to his side’s chances!
Till next time,
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