Cricket - but not as we know it - reaction to the idea of 8-a-side

PUBLISHED: 12:27 11 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:27 11 June 2020

A cricket ball on the scorers table.

A cricket ball on the scorers table.


The ECB has issued a ‘pathway back to cricket’ as a guide for Devon cricket clubs and the subject of how to get local clubs back playing cricket has certainly created quite a debate, writes Stephen Birley.

The Devon Cricket website (|) carried an excellent article that had comment in about how the Devon League proposed to ‘get teams playing again’ and the article was published on the Devon cricket Facebook page where it certainly drew plenty of comment!

The main stem of the original article was that part of the proposal included possibly getting sides playing 8-a-side cricket, but adhering to strict social distancing guidelines which would mean things like wicket keepers standing back from the stumps and slip fielders not being within two metres of each other.

Amongst many of the comments that came in from Devon cricketing folk were: “Will it be two overs per bowler with batsmen batting in pairs for four overs’ (this a reference to how colts cricket is played); “What’s the difference between eight-versus-eight and 11-versus-11. Surely, keeping within social distancing rules those ‘extra’ three fielders could be used in a big wide outfield.”; “Will it be ‘tip and run’”; “No keeper standing up? Brilliant. Let’s also play no lbw’s with one-handed catch on first bounce and you can’t be out first ball!”; “Keepers standing back ruins it for me. I get the reason why, of course, but we’re then fundamentally changing the way the game is played. Would rather play properly or not at all.”

There were plenty of other comments too!

So, lets look at plusses and minuses on this matter.

On the plus side: There is a clear feeling that cricket is a sport that could make some sort of a ‘safe’ return in the same way that golf, bowls and croquet have done.

There’s an argument that players could attend already dressed in cricket gear, could bring their own ‘tea’ and, during matches, every 10 overs hand sanitiser could be passed round. Adding weight to that argument is that cricket pitches are generally ‘big and wide’ and 11 players could easily be ‘socially distanced’.

An even stronger argument seems to the one that says: ‘an entire season with no cricket could be very detrimental to the sport in the longer term with youngsters possibly lost to the game ‘for ever’.

More than one club official has said that it is quite possible a number of youngsters could be drawn to other summer sports and so, if a cricket bat and ball were not picked up in 2020, there’s every chance that that same youngster will not be ‘back for the game’ in 2021.

There’s also the ‘obvious’ benefits of cricket in general: ‘getting out into the fresh air, meeting friends and boosting mental well-being, escaping from the 2020 pandemic lockdown.....

What about the negatives then....

There’s certainly the argument of: ‘Why 8-a-side and also, with a wicket keeper ‘standing back even to the slowest of bowlers makes it become ‘just not cricket’. There’s also the view – shared by a number of skippers: “8-a-side with less fielders than normal chasing leather over a bone hard cricket pitch in mid-summer? Not for me thank you very much.”

Where would the umpire at the non-striker’s end stand so as to comply with the current social distancing of needing to be two metres away? What about the regular practise now of two fielders chasing down a ball together, working in tandem where one ‘flicks’ it up for a team mate who the hurls it into the wicket keeper – who in turn is ‘not allowed’ to stand up by the stumps for fear of breaching the ‘two-metre’ rule?

Okay, at this stage I hear you saying: “Come on, it’s not the professional game and all we want to do is to get back out playing...”

But, can that be done under the current restrictions?

Perhaps the most damning element of this is to look closely at action five on the ECB pathway to a return.

That says - ‘Step Five, unrestricted but on a date to be confirmed. Moving to stage five would be once social distancing restrictions have been removed’.

Given that schools are unlikely to return to ‘normal’ until September – and even that seems to be something everyone cannot agree on, what chance of playing cricket in any shape or form in 2020?

So what about local reaction?

Andrew Buzza, the captain of Exmouth 1st XI and a professional youth coach, has an alternative view when it comes to playing priorities.

“Personally, I think the focus should be on getting the youth playing first,” said Buzza

“Cricket at the best of times isn’t the most accessible sport for young players. Let’s give more opportunity for kids to play via Saturday cricket.

“Smaller teams provide more potential games between clubs.

“Then cricket clubs can organise 20-over or 50-over friendly competitions for the men later.”

Sidmouth 2nd XI skipper, and club secretary, Anthony Griffiths says: “My feeling is either we play proper cricket or we don’t bother at all.

“I am sure some of the younger players will want to play on the basis that any cricket is better than none at all – and I understand that.

“More senior players will want something with some edge to it. Hopefully that will come along in August.”

Seaton skipper Ben Morgan’s view is that if any cricket can be played this summer then it ought to focus on being inter-club with the emphasis being on getting some bar revenue into the clubs.

He says: “I am not too bothered about ‘how-many-a-side’ we play as I don’t see that as a big issue. I am much more concerned about the lack of revenue we, as a club, have been able to bring in this summer and so, even if we had a six week window for cricket this season I’d like to see it used for in-club matches – all of course within whatever guidelines are in place – with a view to us being to at least get some money moving through club accounts from the bar and any other socially-minded events we could come up with.”

He added; “I’d certainly not be in favour of making a trip, let’s say, to North Devon, for an 8-a-side fixture that had no meaning to it. It’d be far better for us to keep it all very local and, as I say, get some revenue into the cub so we all come back next summer with every club still in place and not having gone to the wall for a lack of funds.”

Upottery skipper Mark Joyce’s take on it all is: “I think 8-a-isde would certainly be better than nothing. However, from my point of view the biggest concern then would be if I’d get a game or not as I fancy I might be number nine in terms of the ‘pecking order’!”

Read the original article here

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