This Sunday was due to be the start of the County Championship, a time I look forward to very much each season not just because it means we have cricket in our lives again but it also marks to me the end of the winter slog and the start of Summer. It’s a time when I would open the diary and try to work out which games I want to go to and which games I sadly won’t be able to make due to scheduling. Naturally this is not going to be the case this year.
We are living in uncertain and quite frightening times and hence I don’t want this article to take away from this fact, especially when hundreds are dying in this country from this awful disease; however the fact something we have taken for granted for decades will not be happening has properly hit home today.
I adore sport, especially cricket, even if the actions of the ECB quite often make me want to tear my hair out. Now too old and a bit too round to play much sport, I often take comfort from watching whatever sport happens to be on the TV and I do enjoy most sport, be it Football, NFL, Darts, F1 or International Rugby. Whatever the time of year, I can normally find something to take my mind of the drudgery of life sometimes by immersing myself in something that I was never talented enough to play at a high level.
The thing about sport is it can act as a comfort blanket when things are a bit rubbish, it can make you turn from a normal human being into a quivering wreck (see the WC Final and the Headingley Test last year) and it can take you to a place that is out of your reality. The sudden but completely necessary stoppage of all sport both in our country and across the world must feel like a drug taker who has suddenly going cold turkey and is suddenly facing a chaotic and uncertain world without their comfort blanket they’ve always relied on. From personal experience, I like many others have had some serious challenges and blips in my life, but cricket or football or some of the other sports I mentioned above, even if it has been for a short period, have allowed me to think about something else, away from the things keeping me up at night. I’m sure many who read the blog feel the same thing.
Sport is not just about the 22 players on the park (or however many there are for each sport), but it is there for millions of people who follow their idol’s (and villain’s) every move. Sport is in our psyche, it’s a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones, it’s a chance to immerse yourself in the action whether it last 90 minutes or 5 days, it’s a chance to live unfulfilled dreams invested in others and of course it’s the perfect opportunity to debate, dissect or argue about the outcome in the pub following the game. Sport can be the very excuse to meet with friends, be it in the Grandstand at Lords, the terraces of Griffin Park or just down the pub with the sport on TV. The necessary self-isolation has taken this away from us and as someone who lives on their own, I absolutely miss both the chance to see my family and the chance to meet up with friends at a game and chat rubbish for a few hours. It is also what unites me to a 70 year old woman from Harrow, a 23 year old chemistry student from Birmingham and a few hundred in between on Twitter. We just love the game, and hey, we want to talk about it.
Now this isn’t meant to be a ‘oh woe me’ article, far from it, I’ve had symptoms of the virus and my job sector has been decimated by it; however there are people in far worse situations than me and I truly feel for them. I’ve thought about how I could potentially frame this article for the past couple of days and still doubt that I’ve got the perfect tone, but for me it has highlighted how something so simple can have a profound effect on our own mental wellbeing. I also feel for many of our sports men and women, who have had the finger pointed at them for not doing enough to help the cause, even when many likely are without the need to self-publicise. Sure there are still plenty of crass idiots in sport as there are in real lives, but I personally feel that these people are in the minority even if some of them are earning eye-watering amounts of money.
So back to the game of cricket, which is nothing like as bathed in cash as it’s football cousin and you do see the very real possibility of clubs, both professional and amateur, going under with the squeeze in current finances. You have the players, many of whom aren’t earning massive amounts of money unless they are centrally contracted wondering when and if they may play cricket this season or even again. You have the clubs who even if they survive, will wonder if they’ll be able to get 11 men on the pitch once cricket resumes as previous players decide to move on from the game. Then of course, you have the tragics like me and many others (as many a county cricket dissenter likes to call us) who are obsessed with the game and have grown up with the game as a part of our lives coming to the realisation that there may not be a season in 2020. I applaud the Cricketer for their virtual cricket tournament featuring county pro’s but it’s never going to be the same, though there is a good chance I may tune in.
One thing though we can still hold onto is that cricket and sport in general will return at some point, it could be 3 months, 6 months or longer and the world is likely to be a different place when it does, but return it will and when it does, hopefully everything will be returning to some normality in our lives. I for one, will certainly not be taking it for granted anymore when it does return. I would positively chew my arm off at the moment to see Derbyshire vs. Leicestershire live in the Royal London Cup, something I could never imagine myself saying before. It may be seem trivial to some, maybe many when things are so tough and uncertain in the World at the moment. However, I like many, hope better things are around the corner and the resumption of sport when it is safe to do so, will be a much welcomed first step.
This has been one of the hardest posts I’ve ever had to write, so I do hope that people take it in the spirit it has been meant to be written in, even if I haven’t necessarily got it right.
Stay safe, look after yourselves and enjoy the Easter period if you can.