The ECB have done a remarkable job this summer, getting all 18 of England men’s matches on against four different nations. They obdurately plugged away to ensure the women have fixtures too, even though other boards were not as keen on that. The bubbles in Southampton, Manchester and now Derby have been a fine achievement; the product of months of planning with no expense spared.
As England’s ODI skipper Eoin Morgan said this week: “I think we’ve pioneered or mapped out exactly how to get cricket back on. Given we’ve had no positive cases within the bubble, I think, is a very good example and one every team around the world will look at.”
The ECB have implemented the equivalent of hard lockdown, with everyone staying on site at the ground. Clearly, that is not possible everywhere, because not every cricket ground has a hotel. The Caribbean Premier League also went off without a hitch, so the blueprint has been laid.
The product has been some joyous cricket, a welcome distraction from everything else. Who knows if performance was diminished or elevated by the lack of crowd (players report that batting is unaffected, while life is harder in the field without the buzz), but there has been no lack of intensity.
The show rolls on: England’s women are in action next week; there are two county titles to decide; and the IPL begins tomorrow, but, for the whole game, now is the time for contemplation over what comes next. In short, a tough time. Around the world, the pandemic has caused — or in some cases exacerbated — financial issues.
At the ECB, 62 people will lose their jobs this month. It is not just at the national governing body where there will be redundancies. Counties are doing the same. In other countries, sponsors are bailing, while Australia’s broadcast partners are refusing to cough up their payments in full.
Putting on cricket at this time at once saved the ECB from economic ruin, while also costing them millions of pounds. Can every nation afford the outlay?
England are already working out how next summer looks. There is optimism that some fans might be possible next year and that they will be able to take the game round the country more than this year.
And then there is the human toll. Boards and teams will have to look after their players better than ever, with the demands of life in the bubble far greater than usual.