Bradford Cricket League writer Reg Nelson explores the impact of missing a full cricket season on player performances and clubs’ prospects across the leagues.
As it’s getting increasingly likely that the local leagues in Yorkshire won’t start because of the dreaded coronavirus, there will be much conjecture about the financial state of clubs and what grants could partially compensate.
Another aspect rarely discussed is the effect a missing season can have on a cricketer’s future performance.
A player at the peak of his powers has had a full season robbed from his career – a season that could have been his most special. Will his powers suffer because his continuity of excellence has been broken?
If he is a batter, will his eye co-ordination and timing worsen after two years? As a bowler, he could lose his rhythm and even get the dreaded `yips.’
These are extreme examples of the possible repercussions to a player – but perfectly feasible in some cases.
In the Bradford Premier League, we have Alex Lilley (above) with his flowing run-up and action; tipped to have his best-ever season as he approaches the peak of his career. What a waste!
Then in the Yorkshire Premier League North, there are players of the calibre of York’s Duncan Snell denied another run-laden season. The loss of a year’s cricket at the peak of your ability can equate to a sizeable percentage of your career.
Don’t forget the veterans who might be having their last season. The last thing we need is for them to now walk away from cricket. We need them to stay on at the club and put something back into the club.
But, will they delay their retirement a year and bow out later when their cricket strength has been diluted further by that year?
I guess the most serious aspect of the stoppage is the young’uns that have been previously introduced to cricket and have no team cricket in 2020. How vital it is to keep them involved at an age with so many competing interests.
Somebody made a comment a few days ago that it can go one of two ways. The young cricketers will just lose interest or they will be so keen, after being starved of cricket for a year, that they will turn up in their droves.
Cricketers like Archie Scott of Pudsey St Lawrence and Sam Barraclough of New Farnley had a big season coming up in the Bradford Premier League.
The former was looking to maintain his meteoric start to his senior career and the latter embarking on his first full season in the big time.
Let’s hope that the delay won’t hinder their progress.
Maybe with all the cutting-edge training facilities today, and the umpteen qualified coaches, cricketers can keep themselves in decent touch for next year when hopefully we will have a full 2021 season.
But, eye co-ordination in batting in real match conditions can be affected after a long absence.
Particularly so with batters slightly past their prime and quick bowlers may suffer even more given their need to re-master their run-up and delivery stride.
There has been many a bowler that has developed the ‘yips’ even in normal times! Then there will be the new signings who are taking a chance at a higher standard of cricket or are simply switching to a team more likely to deliver silverware.
They would have been really `up’ for this season, but now they will not know whether it would have been a success and could even drift back to their old club.
I asked former Yorkshire County Cricket Club bowler and now Bankfoot captain James Lee about his views:
“If we do go all of 2020 without playing any league cricket, it will be a massive shame. It will definitely have an impact on bowlers’ rhythm and batters’ ability to react to the ball. I don’t feel like it would take too long to get back into the groove; maybe slightly longer than usual but I am confident I will be ok.”
He added: “You are going to lose a lot of juniors who either forget about the sport or simply fall out of love with it and never return.”
“This is particularly disappointing given the momentum gained from the World Cup win and Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley, coupled with him winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year prize in 2019.” James said.
***Over you, do you agree? What are the ramifications if we lose a full season? Leave a comment below…I read them all! ***
Editor’s Note (JF): Thanks to Reg and James for their contributions. Missing a full cricket season can obviously happen to players for work, family or injury.
It would be unprecedented, since the second world war at least, that the country’s cricket leagues all fall silent for a full year.
We’re not there yet. It is May after all! Clubs can now open their outdoor facilities; we will be in a better position to judge the likelihood of any club cricket by July.
That said, cricket will have a foot race with other sports to re-engage with regulars and occasional players.
We might also see indoor cricket become more popular if coronavirus-related limitations are lifted by the autumn.
My main concern is the dimension of losing umpires, scorers and volunteers at clubs who have gone a season without some of the commitments they used to juggle.
If all of that sounds bleak, club cricket will return. What a day that will be. Yes, recreational cricket of all shapes and sizes faces enormous challenges along that road but is capable emerging leaner but intact.
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