Af­ter glo­ri­ous sum­mer, chill winds blow

Sea­son of won­der­ful cricket has been a fine dis­trac­tion but the fall­out from Covid-19 has left the global game in cri­sis

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Tennis - The Daily Tele­graph By Nick Hoult Michael Hold­ing ed­u­cates us all By Nick Hoult CHIEF CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT Ke­mar Roach to Rory Burns, first day, first Test v West Indies

Af­ter Eng­land and West Indies took a knee on day one of the sum­mer, Michael Hold­ing and Ebony Rain­ford-Brent led an emo­tional dis­cus­sion on racism. “I was never taught any­thing good about black peo­ple and you can’t have a so­ci­ety that only teaches what is con­ve­nient,” Hold­ing said. “His­tory is writ­ten by the con­quer­ers, not those that were con­quered.” Hold­ing grabbed the at­ten­tion but for English cricket the more re­veal­ing, and wor­ry­ing, words came from Rain­ford-Brent. “I had com­ments about where I grew up. The fact that maybe I didn’t know who my dad was, about my hair, body parts. It was con­stant. I love the game, it has so much more to of­fer, but it can be re­ally dif­fi­cult deal­ing with that day in, day out.”

IFri­day 18 Septem­ber 2020 t was great while it lasted, but the won­der­ful sum­mer of in­ter­na­tional cricket ended on Wed­nes­day night and now the re­al­ity of Covid life is kick­ing in.

Eng­land’s 18 in­ter­na­tion­als against four op­po­nents were a valu­able dis­trac­tion. For 10 weeks from July 8 it was al­most back to nor­mal­ity, dis­cussing their lack of a topqual­ity spin­ner or re­liance on two age­ing new-ball bowlers.

But as the Eng­land play­ers left the biobub­ble in Manch­ester ei­ther to reac­quaint them­selves with fam­i­lies they have barely seen for the past 90 days, or to hop on a pri­vate char­ter to the United Arab Emi­rates for the In­dian Premier League, real life was dawn­ing again.

At the Eng­land and Wales Cricket

Board the process of cut­ting 62 jobs has be­gun, with re­duc­tions in staff across the board. Many coun­ties are now star­ing at the win­ter and won­der­ing what comes next. Money has been guar­an­teed un­til Jan­uary and the ECB has as­sured the coun­ties they will re­ceive their full £3.8 mil­lion al­lo­ca­tion next year, but many know they can­not sur­vive an­other sum­mer like this.

Kent last week an­nounced a 20 per cent re­duc­tion in off-field staff, oth­ers have al­ready done so with­out mak­ing it pub­lic. Sur­rey are un­der­stood to have let about 20 mem­bers of staff go and one county source es­ti­mated “at least a cou­ple of hun­dred” will be made re­dun­dant across the 18 clubs, and that is be­fore play­ing staffs are trimmed. The Pro­fes­sional Crick­eters’ As­so­ci­a­tion has 70 mem­bers out of con­tract at the end of the sea­son and ex­pects most to leave the game.

The cricket wheel turns quickly and the IPL be­gins to­mor­row in Dubai, but with­out fans and at huge

It was just a reg­u­la­tion first ball that Burns de­fended with ease but it meant so much. It was the first day of a very dif­fer­ent sum­mer that had looked as if it would never hap­pen. In rapid time, the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board, led by Steve El­wor­thy, pro­duced plans for a biose­cure en­vi­ron­ment and char­ter flights to whisk West Indies play­ers to the UK and once the Gov­ern­ment was con­vinced it could work, the board was able to save the game from ruin. Day one felt strange, with rules so strict that Rod Brans­grove could not go into the Rod Brans­grove pavil­ion. Tem­per­a­ture tests, ar­rows on the floor, sani­tis­ing sta­tions, and play­ers us­ing sweat in­stead of saliva to shine the ball soon be­came as rou­tine as Roach bowl­ing out­side Burns’s off stump. ex­pense to re­lo­cate teams, broad­cast­ers and sup­port staff from India to the UAE.

The IPL lost Vivo, its ti­tle spon­sor, last month af­ter a row over a dis­count due to there be­ing no spec­ta­tors this year and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions be­tween China and India. Vivo, a Chi­nese tele­com com­pany, has been re­placed by on­line gam­ing com­pany Dream11, which is pay­ing about £27 mil­lion, half the Vivo fee.

Fran­chises ex­pect a 30 per cent drop in rev­enue this year, and are hop­ing 20 per cent will be cov­ered by the In­dian cricket board. Spon­sors are de­mand­ing re­duc­tions be­cause they will not have ac­cess to fans at grounds so ticket rev­enue will be nil. Still, the IPL beast will recover, given India’s eco­nomic might and the fact that cricket of­fers com­pa­nies such as Facebook, Google and Ama­zon a di­rect line to a grow­ing mid­dle class.

Eng­land hope to play six white­ball matches in South Africa at the end of Novem­ber, but Cricket South Africa last week lost a ma­jor spon­sor, Mo­men­tum, af­ter the board was sacked by the gov­ern­ment, and it is in deep cri­sis.

Jobs have al­ready been lost at Cricket New Zealand, and in the West Indies the Caribbean Premier League was played in its en­tirety in Trinidad be­hind closed doors and will make a loss this year. Play­ers and staff have al­ready taken 50 per cent wage cuts.

Cricket Ire­land has been un­able to host any in­ter­na­tional cricket this sum­mer. Be­fore Covid, Ire­land down­graded a se­ries with Bangladesh from Tests to one-day­ers for fi­nan­cial rea­sons. The board faced “a num­ber of fi­nan­cial head­winds” as it made the tran­si­tion to Test cricket, War­ren Deu­trom, its chief ex­ec­u­tive, said. Those winds are now gale-force.

Afghanista­n have not played since March. They re­cently made Andy Moles, the head coach, re­dun­dant and cut player salaries by 50 per cent. Sri Lanka are hop­ing to play against Bangladesh next month but a row has erupted over quar­an­tine. Bangladesh are re­fus­ing to quar­an­tine play­ers for two weeks, as re­quested by the Sri Lankan gov­ern­ment, putting the tour in doubt.

Then there is Aus­tralia. It has been a tor­rid time in Mel­bourne for Cricket Aus­tralia, which should be pre­par­ing to host the World Twenty20 next month. Kevin Roberts, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, left in June over plans to cut costs by 25 per cent. He was ac­cused of over­re­act­ing, but ear­lier this week two of the board’s broad­cast part­ners paid only re­duced in­stal­ment fees and Channel 7 has tried to ter­mi­nate the fi­nal four years of its deal.

Cricket boards live and die by their rights deals. A nasty and ex­pen­sive court bat­tle looms. The World T20 will not be played in Aus­tralia un­til 2022, and the Ashes will feel very dif­fer­ent next year, too. Who knows if Eng­land fans will be al­lowed to travel.

Cricket will carry on, matches will be played be­hind closed doors and play­ers will con­tinue to do great things, which is for­tu­nate be­cause dis­trac­tion is what ev­ery­body needs.

Stokes gives Eng­land vic­tory When asked to com­pare Ben Stokes to a car­toon char­ac­ter, Joe Root said: “Mr In­cred­i­ble?” Stokes had made con­trast­ing scores of 176 and 78 in the sec­ond Test to drag Eng­land to a se­ries-lev­el­ling win against West Indies. Two body-break­ing spells also broke West Indies re­sis­tance.

Bro­ken But­tler bounces back Af­ter the first day of the first Test against Pak­istan, Jos But­tler spoke to wick­et­keep­ing coach Bruce French at Old Traf­ford fol­low­ing a tor­rid dis­play be­hind the stumps. His bat­ting was also a mess. But­tler then ral­lied to lead a dar­ing run chase, tweaked his tech­nique and scored a sec­ond Test hun­dred.

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