Stokes: Why open up pubs before cricket clubs?
Ben Stokes believes it is time for club cricket to return and cannot understand how it is still deemed unsafe yet pubs can reopen.
Stokes learnt the game playing for Cockermouth in the North West and returned a week after winning the World Cup last summer to show off his medal, when he was made a life member. He said at the time: “I’ll never forget where everything started and that’s here.”
Now he has joined Joe Root, Heather Knight, Sir Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan and Sir Geoffrey Boycott to back The Daily
Telegraph campaign for the return of grass-roots cricket.
“Yes, I think club cricket should start. I saw a quote from Mark Wood saying, ‘You don’t want to miss out on the next England superstar’. For club cricket to be put back, but pubs open again on Saturday is a bit strange to comprehend and I know that people are absolutely desperate,” he said.
“I have friends who play in the leagues in the North East and Cumbria who are just dying to get back out on the field. Everybody needs something, and people who love cricket are just desperate to start playing, and the quicker that happens the better. I just don’t really see why it can’t happen, especially when you see the other things that are allowed to happen.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board last week submitted plans for how cricket could be made as Covid-safe as possible and is hopeful the Government will give permission for a resumption by the end of the week. If that happens club cricket could restart as soon as the weekend starting July 11.
Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the ball as a “natural vector of disease”.
Our season began on Sunday afternoon, almost three months behind schedule.
My term as the new president of Hinton Charterhouse CC had not gone well – our centenary dinner at Bath’s Assembly Rooms (with guest speakers David Lloyd and Vic Marks) had been cancelled, our centenary match v Bunbury XI (captain Marcus Trescothick) cancelled – so the least I could do was devise a format to get us out there again, playing, within government guidelines.
Cricket has been elastic enough to adapt itself to some strict parameters. It has been played aboard ship and on ice, even on sandbanks in the English Channel. There have been matches between Smokers and Non-Smokers, between OneArmed and One-Legged – a fixture which was particularly widespread after the Crimean War.
There used to be single-wicket matches, popular because they were simple for betting (will A or B win?), which was relevant for this new format, which cannot have more than six people on the field.
At the projected starting time of noon, after waiting since mid-April in the sunniest of summers, it rained. Two hours later it was a perfect afternoon for cricket – a fresh breeze from the west, blue skies over Hinton – except the Government would not permit a game or match.
So, six pioneers set out to make the most of our situation – which is, ultimately, the secret of living – and have as much competitive fun as we were allowed.
The objective was to keep to the Laws of Cricket wherever possible – no artificialities like a batsman losing 10 runs every time he got out – so the only big change was one borrowed from the single-wicket format: to complete a single, the batsman had to run to the non-striker’s end and back to his crease. As one player batted, and a second kept wicket, that left one to bowl and three to field, with a minimum of one fielder on each side of the pitch.
It was relatively simple. The four fielders bowled one over each. The batsman faced a maximum of 24 balls. A lot of running had to be done, as there should be in a format which lasts only an hour and a half or so. Each bowler used his own ball, and a bottle of sanitiser was positioned behind the stumps.
Since it was everyone’s first time in the middle this season, the batsman was allowed one “life”. Boy, did some of our lads cash in: three passed 40, one reached 55, and our first XI vice-captain Jim, built like a tank, hit his first ball for six and went on to score 66. Bowlers learnt that it pays to beat the bat.
So, that was one semi-final, so to speak. Then we had the second with another six players – and not mere modesty, but shame forbids me to supply those details. Suffice, I was not one of the six highest run-scorers – spread over the two semis – to qualify for the final.
To give a game to as many players as possible – not a government priority – we had to self-police: better to have six players on the field than five and one umpire. The wicketkeeper had to be trusted to adjudicate on wides and lbw. But the scorer-cum-umpire, sitting side-on outside the boundary, adjudicated on run-outs and no-balls.
For the final, we decided on no lives. In other words: there was to be more emphasis on batting, less on hitting. But owing to the morning rain and delayed start it was getting late, and everybody had been given a decent runaround, so the final was not staged.
The scorer-cum-umpire, positioned outside the boundary, adjudicated on run-outs and no-balls
One unanimous verdict was that, to save time next weekend, we will splice the semi-finals together i.e. after the first batsman in Team 1 has batted, while everyone comes off the field to wash hands and pad up, Team 2 will go out and their first batsman will have his innings. Then the second batsman in Team 1 will bat. Might need one scoring umpire for each game so he or she does not get confused.
The other change might be to borrow from the single-wicket format again: runs not to be scored behind the wicket. One proposal was to place our portable net beside the wicketkeeper, so the batsman could not score from edges, but that means everyone has to bowl from the same end, which is an artificial restriction – a major one for certain types of bowler on certain grounds.
Our Hinton Sixes made for competitive fun with bat and ball, and players from the ages of 13 to 66 mixed together – with social distancing of course – and a lot of us woke up stiff the next morning, happy that a season of sorts had begun. Better than nothing, but a pastime for individuals. Not a team… game as cricket should be.
Leader: Ben Stokes, bowling at the Ageas Bowl yesterday, has been named captain as Joe Root is likely to miss the first Test against West Indies for the birth of his second child