Coronavirus: English Cricket in Crisis!!

Image taken from twitter feed of Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8)

As I write this there are about 182,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus globally with about 7,000 deaths and 79,000 people have recovered. We are only in the third month since the virus started to get featured on a global basis. The last pandemic was the Flu Pandemic which had 1 million casualties but it was largely restricted to East Asia. We have to go back to 1956 which saw a global death toll of 2 million people that saw 3,550 deaths in England and Wales. So far 55 people have died in England although this number is expected to increase. Some experts have projected that there could be as much as eight million infections in the U.K.

I am an analyst who concentrates on the macro picture but I will be hesitant to put my views in writing unless I am comfortable with the topic. You have to read this article which appeared in Middlestump which gives the potential impact of Covid19 on cricket clubs. However, from a macro perspective, we should consider the following as I believe that this year will be crucial for world cricket. The World Test Champion will be thrown into disarray. The 2nd Test between Pakistan and Bangladesh can potentially happen in October but it is too close to the T20 World Cup in Australia so I doubt whether Pakistan or Bangladesh will want to go ahead with it. The first Test in England is due to happen in June but I have my doubts whether this will happen. Even if it goes through I doubt whether there will be a significant number of domestic games played so that the current squad will get match ready or fresh talent will be found.

During the flu epidemic in 1956; England played 22 Tests between 1st of January 1956 and 1st of January 1959 where the total number of Tests that were played were 37. Fast forward to 2020 and Joe Root said that England decided to give Fist Bumps only which I thought served no point. Stuart Broad who made the video from which I have taken the featured image of this post served to prove my point. South Africa then stated that they would avoid shaking hands which made sense but then you had Bhuvneshwar Kumar who was practical and talked about using saliva to shine the ball and the impact that it would have on bowlers if they did not do that. Suddenly the threat of the virus spreading became very real and playing matches behind closed doors did not seem to be enough. International series has been called off, the IPL will most probably be significantly delayed if not called off. The final of the Sheffield Shield has been called off and New South Wales have been declared the winner. The Pakistan Super League has been called off with only the semifinals and finals left to be played. Prior to that, they continued playing behind closed stadiums albeit with some international players leaving the tournament. I have always admired the resilience of Pakistan and personally, I think it was necessary to delay the cancellation of the game as it marks a big return of cricket to Pakistan soil which is extremely important for cricket. It is clear though that the commentators had been given clear instructions not to mention anything about the virus.

The thing that has irked me so far is that no cricketing body took any action until a decision was taken to postpone the IPL. Responses to Covid19 should have been taken irrespective of what the governing body, other boards or players do. Lewis Hamilton criticised the F1 and was instrumental in getting the Australian Grand Prix cancelled. Then again the IPL did not make a stand until the Government of India enforced their response to Covid19. Balancing the welfare of all the stakeholders of the game is not easy but at no stage must the income of the cricket board of a country be placed in front of the other stakeholders.

The Hundred has split English Cricket worse than what Brexit did. I was waiting for 100 days before The Hundred to write a series beginning with where I stand on The Hundred but I may as well state it now. I believe that the true success of any domestic competition is the ability to churn out new talent and strengthen the international side so that they can win at home and away. It is an insult to the British public to “simplify” the game to attract more players. If The ECB wants to attract children to the game then they have to win Tests, ODI’s and T20 games globally and it has to be made available to as many people for as low a cost as possible. Sachin Tendulkar had the power to bring a country of 1.2 Billion to a standstill. The closest England has come to achieving this was the World Cup which they won.

The first County games are due to begin on April 12th which is less than a month away. I have no idea if any brilliant plans are being brewed but ECB is reportedly starting to talk to the counties this week to discuss options. I sure would like to know as I would like to go to see Middlesex play at Radlett especially as I missed them last year and I am not alone as Twitter is flooded with people going through cricket withdrawal symptoms complemented by working from home due to social distancing. Andy Nash who was the former ECB Director believes that The Hundred will merge with the Vitality Blast. I fear that The ECB will do everything to ensure that The Hundred will happen even if they have to cancel all the games in the other formats because they have to start recouping the money which is about £40 million as soon as possible. I also fear that all other cricket will take a backseat to The Hundred if it goes ahead of course. I hope the ECB keeps one number in mind when it takes the final decision. The number is $521.6 million. This is the amount the IPL can lose in broadcasting rights.

Covid19 will impact every member of the ICC and consequently the members of the country boards going down to the grass root levels. I hope that everyone puts the needs of cricket first and possibly take a short term socialist view where any income is shared equitably so that there will not be any gap in the flow of talent. Championships will come and go but if talent slips through the system then it probably will not be found again.

I look forward to your comments and if you liked what I wrote then do consider donating to Lord’s Taverners and/or hiring me to write or analyse cricket and investments.

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