Cricket Cancelled (Well, Pretty Much)

So that’s it folks. Cricket has been cancelled. England have come home from Sri Lanka, pre-season tours have been called off, they’re cutting the Pakistan Super Slog short, and the money-spinning IPL is in doubt too. Australia even played New Zealand in an empty stadium on Friday. It all feels completely surreal.

One really wonders what the future holds at this point. Recent reports suggest that the coronavirus epidemic in the UK will peak in late May or early June (that’s 10-12 weeks away) but I have no idea what’s going to happen in other countries.

What’s more, things aren’t suddenly going to ‘get back to normal’ in July. I wouldn’t be surprised to see travel restrictions still in place, plus there’s the tricky subject of player visas to arrange. It’s quite possible there will be no international cricket at all in England this summer. What on earth will we all talk about?!

There’s nothing much one can say at this point other than ‘oh shit’. I’m no epidemiologist – in fact, I thought an epidemiologist was someone who specialised in the epididymus until recently – but hopefully things won’t get as bad as the media make out. Maybe there’s an element of sensationalism in their coverage because, at the end of the day, it’s their business to attract viewers?

On the other hand, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if (a) the government expects a large proportion of the population to get sick, and (b) there are only 5,000 ventilators in the whole UK, then (c) we’re absolutely up the creek without a paddle.

In fact, the only sensible thing to do in these circumstances could be to stay at home for a year watching re-runs of the 2005 Ashes on DVD. How bloody typical that I renewed my Sky Sports subscription literally three weeks ago. ‘The home of live sport’? Not for the next few months it won’t be.

So what does all this means for the 2020 cricket season?

The first county championship fixtures are supposed to begin on 12th April. Aint. Gonna. Happen.

England’s first series of the summer (against the Windies at home) begins on June 4th. Aint Gonna Happen.

But what about The Hundred, which begins immediately after Australia’s white ball tour between 3-16th of July? Is this is danger too?

If all goes well and either (a) an early summer heatwave kills off the virus, or (b) the coronavirus spreads through the population anyway but the effects are no worse than the headache one gets after drinking too much Corona, then it’s just about possible that the Australia tour and Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit go ahead as planned.

The ECB will be hoping that the epidemic subsides, and any quarantines / bans on large gatherings are lifted, just as the tournament gets underway. Therefore, in Tom Harrison’s dreams, a population that’s been hibernating for months gradually emerges into the sunlight hungry for live sport and eager to grasp anything and everything that’s taking place.

Alternatively, the Hundred gets underway, flops completely (which it might well have done anyway), and Harrison / Graves simply blame the virus for the nation’s lack of interest. They might even pretend that they’ve done extensive research into human psychology to prove this is the case … which they’ll obviously refuse to publish because it won’t exist.

My gut feeling at this point, however, tells me that The Hundred will be postponed / cancelled too. Most experts think this disease isn’t going to miraculously disappear overnight – it’s pretty hot in Australia and they seem to have the virus down there too – so somehow I think it’s unlikely that the good old English summer is going to save our skins.

The big question is what will happen if they do actually manage to get some cricket played later in the year – perhaps in August and September. I’ve even heard it mooted that the season could be expanded into October – although it would be pretty chilly and games would have to start around 10am (if not before) to make best use of available light.

It’s difficult to see how they’d structure the season if this were to happen. There simply wouldn’t be time for every county side to play each other. So how could a legitimate champion be crowned?

What’s more, there’s the question of what kind of cricket the ECB would hastily decided to play. Call me an old cynic but I highly doubt they’ll want to play 4-day matches at this point. They’ll want to play the games that attract the biggest crowds for understandable financial reasons. Perhaps there will be room for The Hundred, and / or the T20 Blast after all? Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing the latter – although I wouldn’t be surprised if the ECB prioritise their crazy new project above all else.

At this point, however, I’d like to throw in a wildcard. What if they played all championship games as scheduled (throughout the summer) but behind closed doors? Although I’ve seen some people argue (I assume facetiously) that nobody watches the championship anyway so there’s no danger to public health (!) there is a serious point to be made here.

Whilst quite a few people still do watch live championship cricket (it’s not uncommon to see over a thousand people attend) it’s certainly the tournament that produces the least revenue relative to the duration of matches; therefore if some cricket were to be played behind closed doors then the championship is clearly the best candidate.

What’s more, this might be an opportunity to some extent. If first class cricket is the only professional sport actually taking place in the UK between April and June then it’s possible more people would take an interest.

Although there’s a chance that other sports including Premier League football might take place behind closed doors too, I doubt this is viable because the clubs have so many foreign players. County cricket, on the other hand, would be relatively unaffected by international travel bans. Teams would just be missing the limited number of overseas stars.

Please feel free to debate all aspects of how the coronavirus might affect the upcoming cricket season below. I fully accept that today’s article is full of (mostly) uninformed speculation. I know more about my epididymis than epidemics. However, in these uncertain times speculation is pretty much all we’ve got.

James Morgan


  • If I was the ECB I’d be preparing a support package for counties down to clubs that pay affiliation fees for the support of the NGB is times of hardship. This may not save all but clubs but even the most well run club will struggle without revenue be it junior, senior or social. The 30% that was planned for grassroots may not be enough.

    Just a thought if the ECB switched tack from keeping the franchises afloat to supporting the Blast would that not be more beneficial in the short term. Postpone the 100 for a year?

    • Whilst I agree with the broad sentiment I do think it will be necessary to target support very carefully. There are many clubs able to survive financially even if there is no cricket this summer. As an example my club, which is a typical village club with 2 saturday sides and one on sunday – playing in the Surrey Fullers League, has sufficient reserves for circa 2-3 years. The ECB have been very lax in past years in targetting money. Last year we got a 90% grant for new covers and actually made a profit after the sponsorship for the name on the covers – all with no checks on our need. With much more demand and limited funds such generosity cannot continue.

      • There has to be a scheme as you say even if it’s repayable grants etc. So many clubs operate on different business models but they all sign up as ECB afficiliates and will need extra support. The ECB are taking money from clubs for All Stars and Dynamos when they could absorb the cost – well run junior sections create revenue and the future of the game

  • There’s only one alternative. Make the Blast the top priority on a Sunday and run the county championship the rest of the time. This strategy worked brilliantly in seventies.

    • As you say that is the ONLY thing to do. Perfect

      However if that wasn’t acceptable they could go for Championship games Monday to Thursday with two T20 games at the weekend (Friday night, Saturday or Sunday).

      Teams not playing on the Sunday could start and finish their Championship game a day early.

  • Big crowd gatherings are being stopped, but with largely small crowds at Championship games, it might just be played. However I see the Government may be “requesting “that the over 70s remain at home. As they probably make up at least half the Championship spectators, yes well. Mind you they’d have to check everyone’s age which is nigh on impossible. The only upside of the Corona Virus is that it could be ultimately reponsible for killing off the 100. Now who would have thought that?

  • If live sport can start again in mid-July, I can see the silly ‘100’ running alongside the 50 over competition for counties, followed by the T20 blast (as that brings in more revenue), with the red ball game cancelled completely as far as counties are concerned (not that this is what I’d wish for!!)

    However if SOME first class games can be played, there are plenty of historical precedents over the past 130 years for not all counties playing each other, and even some counties playing more matches than others; the positions are then worked out on a % system of points gained/maximum possible or similar. So even if, say, all counties could only play 6 or 7 games, you could still award positions. And, perhaps, revert to 3 day games to fit more in?

  • Simple Answer

    Sack off international cricket for the summer
    Concentrate on 2020 Blast and the County Championship. Ensure most of it is being televised or streamed because Cricket as a sport will suffer badly as the amateur season is bound to be hit until June. The 2012 floods took a lot of people out the game and killed clubs.. This will be as bad or worse and Cricket just may not ever get these people back.

    Amateur cricket wise… Chances are there will only be half a season so please god don’t go playing some short format stuff as you’ll find teams just won’t look the same as normal as people just won’t bother giving up Saturdays for stupid formats. Big clubs will be fine but smaller clubs will suffer and the leagues will be pointless. Id’ consider simply playing a kind of tournament where you split the league into two based on last seasons positions… top half play each other twice… bottom half play each other twice… just call it a ‘cup’ or something

  • Good shout me thinks. So many sports are pussy footing around taking things on a daily basis when it’s clear there’s no sign of an upturn anywhere except ironically in the province where it all began.
    I dont see any point trying to play professional sport behind closed doors,, it defeats the object.. I feel sporting bodies should be making plans for the long haul not constantly moving goalposts.
    It’s clear lock down isn’t far away so let’s all prepare for that inevitability.and a likely lengthy duration. We need clear thinking no cash based reactivity.

    • Not true. New cases in South Korea have fallen dramatically, and without a lockdown. Instead they have focused on widespread testing to identify infection risks. They have already tested over 250k compared with 44k here and only 10k in the USA (although that seems to be so The Dump can claim the USA is less affected – easy to do if you fail to test).

      • What I was referring to was the fact there have been allegedly no new outbreaks in that province recently. It’s understandable that they’ve tested more when closer to the epicentre, so it’s no surprise they’re getting results. I guess they’ve had a few more deaths there than over here to focus the mind set. It’s being surrounded by so much water that helps us and the USA so much as people can’t drift in and out so easily, like in most of Europe. Once you suspend passenger flights and shipping there’s not much left to threaten.

        • I assumed ‘the province where it began’ referred to Wuhan. I think the South Korea case is important because it provides a clear model for managing the issue within a democracy (as Wuhan style control is not possible). And the model says mass testing and tracing is the best policy rather than closing society (which is exactly what our governments advisors said initially until leant on).

          • I can’t believe a government would hamstring itself with a potential economic disaster when there’s an alternative as apparently simple as mass testing. There must be something more to it than that.

  • The corporate cricket media have all put their serious faces on and chorused as one: “tough decision…. right decision… needed to be made…. blah blah”. No questioning, let alone dissent. If someone can find exceptions then please post them, because I can’t. This unanimity of opinion should be a red flag.

    This is not the place to discuss if the whole coronavirus story is correct although I would point out it’s been brought to you by the media that proclaimed there were WMD in Iraq, that there was a chemical attack in Douma and countless other lies (or at least hugely dubious narratives). So instead of deferring to ‘experts’, how about asking some questions? For example, how many people will calling off the big business that is modern sport kill or seriously jeopardise? I would think that many people in support services like security and catering (let alone in tourism-related jobs in a poor country like SL) are in a highly precarious economic situation and the loss of even a small number of pay checks can put them in real danger. The death toll in homelessness, poor diets and increased stress will be incalculable because nobody will try to calculate it.

    P.S. Don’t replace one corporate entertainment with another. Anyone thinking of getting Netflix for the duration needs to do some research on co-founder Marc Randolph and ask themselves some questions about whether he’s someone they want to give money to.

  • I accept that crowds over 1000 are seen at Championship games, but in grounds holding between 10000 and 25000 this still leaves plenty of room for people to keep their distance. The danger of such crowds is when they are packed into small spaces such as theatres. But the government are bound to go for the big brush, easy option of tarring all sports events with the same brush. Anyone who thinks policy is being science driven is very naive about politics. Decisions will be based on minimising the risk of a politician being accused, with hindsight, of failing to take an action – so lockdowns and the like will happen regardless of advice so they can say in a years time that they acted, even if it was against advice.

    We live in a time when government policy is based on one principle; protecting themselves from being blamed for anything. This is known as ‘turd immunity’ (as opposed to herd immunity).

    • There’s nothing stopping people congregating together if they want. We don’t live under Marshall Law yet. All the government are doing is giving the best advice they can to folk to keep them safe. We are not experts, but the government have access to all the expertise they want.
      I think it’s overly cynical to say we now live in a time where government effectively operate a ‘covering your arse’ Policy. We all do it at work so why not the Politicians. It’s being going on for a long time.

      • I wish I was just cynical. Today’s despicable prevaricating by Johnson says otherwise. Telling people to stay away from the likes of theatres (which may or may not help) without having the guts to make their closure a government policy. The effect? Insurance provides no cover for the owners as it has been left to the public to decide. So Johnson can say (in a years time) that he took a decision but avoids the politically difficult issue of enforcement. And others pay the bill for his waffling both financially from loss of insurance cover and by being forced to take decisions which are the responsibility of politicians. Would you want to be a cricket administrator deciding to go ahead with the Championship in the face of government ‘advice’?

        We have not had a single MP who even understands science since Julian Huppert and their regard for science can be seen by their long record of cuts to research budgets.

        • I do agree that the way things stand at present where as you say the government are making recommendations rather than passing draconian laws, are leaving the way open for mass insurance company cop outs. It is ironic that the industry that is pretty much a licence to print money seems to be the one most protected from pandemic effects.
          It will be interesting to see how many take the PM’s advice. Our local has a quiz night every Wednesday and so far attendances have been as normal. I work in retail and haven’t noticed a huge drop in the amount of pensioners in our local shopping centre, which is a kind of drop in centre for many of them. We are not a food shop and have managed to keep hitting targets so far, though not by much.

      • “Marshall Law” — is that something to do with Malcolm? Mandatory fast-bowling every day?

        • I thought it was where the USA bailed everyone out after a catastrophic event and thus indebted the entire world to them….

  • I’m not sure the 100 can feasibly take place
    We need to ensure that all 18 counties are playing games and I’m not meaning downgraded 50 over games

    Unfortunately everything is an unknown at the moment but I’d be surprised if we saw any sport and large gatherings before June
    If thats the case then the priority has to be the Blast with counties having a Friday evening game, a game on Saturday or Sunday and 2 midweek games hopefully spread out so sky can show at least one game a day as there will be no Euro 2020
    Counties on the back of 2 home games a week for 5/6 weeks may just about make up any financial shortfall

    On an amateur level in my league overseas players have to play by the end of May, I’m not sure if that is an ECB directive – if there is no cricket before June then its going to cause a lot of difficulties

  • I have resigned myself to not seeing any cricket at all this season. That’s hard to swallow but the BIg Match is defeating this awful virus.
    To help me through a long period of isolation I can devote time to my collection of Wisdens and other cricket books.
    Stay safe and keep well clear of me. Thank you.

  • I can see no sensible reason why Championship cricket cannot continue. There is usually plenty of room for spectators to ‘spread out’. We need to remember that it’s an outdoor game, quite different to a theatre for example. This same thinking can obviously apply to Minor Counties and League games. Like an earlier correspondent implied, there is too much of, ‘ x is cancelled so y must also be cancelled’ with a lack of logic or common sense. If the season is allowed to ‘die’ the ECB will use the losses as an excuse to decimate first class cricket with the 100 being billed as the game’s salvation!

  • From Andy Nash on Twitter:

    “Entirely my hunch – & I hope I’m wrong – but I fear we should prepare for the ECB in the wake of #coronavirusuk to merge the #hundred and #T20Blast this season. IF this happens I doubt they’ll ever be separated”.

    I was put on to this by Jonathan Liew’s article to be ready for disaster capitalism in sport (starting with the egregious Karen Brady example trying to save her grossly mis-managed West Ham from relegation. She’s given a platform by the BBC and you continue to trust them? Why?). What LIew will not and can not do on a corporate platform is ask: if they are willing to exploit disasters, why wouldn’t they create them?

    • Difficult to blame Brady; all the clubs in West Ham’s position would try it on. And Brady is just the puppet of Sullivan, who was done for false accounting and Gold, the son of a Kray gangster. At least cricket only appoints idiots to senior positions rather than crooks.

      • In Victorian times the ‘idiot’ of the family used to go into the church, now it appears to be sports administration. As sport is the modern religion I guess we should expect it. Though it beats me how apparently successful businessmen can consistently make poor business decisions when investing in sport.

  • Richard Gould says Surrey’s NWB sales are 25% of what they’d normally be currently which is usually peak advanced booking time. I guess the ECB just got lucky that they’d got much of their advanced booking for the 16.66 in….

    ECB cash reserves from their most recent accounts were £11m, down from £73m in 2015-16. Spending on administration in the same period increased of course.

    • And that (second paragraph) is precisely why the Hundred is so criminal. It’s reduced to a relative sliver substantial reserves which were largely intended for precisely this kind of purpose.

      And for what exactly?

  • The problem with even playing the Championship or early season Friendlies is not so much fewer spectators, but it encourages more people to travel in close proximity with others with obvious increased risk of catching the dreaded C.
    The Friendlies are two weeks away, but until the Masters at the ECB degree they are all off, clubs all appear to be proceeding as normal.
    The latest scientific “thinking” is that the virus could last a few weeks or a few months, so I would think the dreaded 100 is definitely under threat. Really no one actually knows, it’s speculation at best at the moment.
    Oh and any one who says “social distancing” should probably be shot!

  • I love how people want amateur cricket to continue. Remind me who generally runs clubs.. umpires.. scores… is the groundsman .. etc etc

    Oh yeah, older more vulnerable people. Plus, all those players who are single and young with young parents .. grest. What about those with older parents who we will then take it back too.. or kids.. or have underlaying conditions… families we don’t want to infect potentionally. Easy to say keep playing if you’re single but as soon as clubs can’t put out genuine teams the league is compromised anyway so what’s the point. Might as well not play

  • I’m not sure that many people have grasped how serious this crisis really is. As someone well within the ‘at risk’ group I’m taking it very seriously but trying not to become paranoiac. Very little is known about this new illness and scientific models are based on relatively few data samples.
    In the big world beyond cricket, we learn today that Glastonbury has been cancelled, various BBC soups have stopped filming (every cloud etc), Anglican and Catholic churches are being closed, not to mention the celebrated Bettys cafes in Yorkshire.
    There really is nothing to suggest that a quick fix is in sight,
    Get out your Wisdens relax in the garden as and when summer arrives, and imagine that you can hear the sound of leather on willow, because that’s going to be a close as we get to cricket this year, in my view.

  • Just received the ECB statement (via Surrey) calling off all club cricket and training. I understand that they feel obliged to follow the policy of the government (turd immunity) but to claim this is following the best scientific advice flies in the face of both what has said by many experts (including our governments until they were leaned on) and the evidence from South Korea about how best to tackle the disease. I would have understood and been less offended if they had just said they were doing the bidding of the government and left out the bit about the science.

  • The WI Board offered to host their series against England. It seems a sensible idea (some logistical details notwithstanding) so obviously couldn’t happen. The earliest the ECB were apparently willing to consider was December.

    The stated reason is that it would be odd to play the series while cricket and other sport is suspended. What seems odd is that nation’s with one reported case of coronavirus (which itself seems strange, all these countries with one reported case) not being able to hold a sporting competition, even behind closed doors (which frankly for most WI Tests would fall into the “how can they tell?” category).

    The only explanation that makes any sense is that they don’t want distractions from the fear porn that’s being pumped out.

    • That quote came from Johnny Grave, not from the ECB.

      It’s fairly logical I think. Cricket West Indies have called off all their matches at the moment and are taking a very cautious approach, the low numbers of cases notwithstanding (or possible as a result of them–they don’t want to start getting them!) It would seem very odd to be playing a Test series when domestic cricket is suspended: that’s the suspension you’re talking about, which is West Indies’, not England’s. It would probably be especially strange to be welcoming a team from a relatively highly infected area into a very low-infected one.

      I think Grave is also assuming that by July or August cricket will be possible in England, so if the series is rescheduled then it’s going to take place in England not WI. (He’s probably also not keen to have to postpone the CPL if he can avoid it). It’s obviously not going to take place after that until after the World T20–which means, basically, December.

      There are other factors at play as well too, than the risk of infection–which was clear reading the reports of the cancellation of the SL tour. England (as in the players, not the ECB) probably wouldn’t want to be touring WI and to be away from their families at a time when the infection is forecast to be peaking, nor to risk the possibility of being stranded away from their families because low-risk countries cancel flights to the UK at a time of high infection.

  • Does anyone know why the ecb seem to have received such radically different advice from the lawn tennis association and golf England, both of which recommend recreational activity to be completely safe, provided sensible precautions are taken?

  • Personal view cricket will not be played this season, as for next season the Blundred will have to compete with Euro 21, add into that the Olympics are now to start late July to August and then the Premier League kicks in. Best of luck to teh ECB trying to promote the new game, this might just kill f off although you never know with the clueless in charge of teh game


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