Clubs not prepared to write off cricket season, despite question marks over sport’s return

Dan Bowser batting for North Devon against Bovey Tracey in May 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

Dan Bowser batting for North Devon against Bovey Tracey in May 2019. Picture: Matt Smart - Credit: Matt Smart

North Devon chairman Mark Ansell is not prepared to write off the cricket season just yet, even though there is no sign of it starting anytime soon.

Fixtures in the Tolchards Devon Cricket League have been put on hold until further notice – and there are no signs from the Government that team sports will resume in the near future.

Ansell was originally among a number of cricket club chairmen in Devon hoping the season would belatedly start in early July, but now admits that is looking unlikely.

What Ansell won’t give up on is the prospect of getting some ‘meaningful’ cricket played this season.

“The fact that golf and tennis can be played again from this week is a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ansell.

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“If we get a decision from Government within the next month – and as the risk level comes down that may well happen – then it might still be possible to play some cricket.

“My strong view is we should be brave and go for it; get friendlies and a ‘pre-season’ going as soon as the Government allows.”

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Ansell said pavilions will have to remain shut to maintain social distancing standards, but added that players should arrive changed into their kit.

A 50 per cent Devon League programme starting in early July is Ansell’s preference, although he concedes it might not happen.

“The longer the delay before there is a road map for sports like cricket, the less likely it is there will be a start in early July,” said Ansell.

“If we can’t start in early July, whatever cricket is played has to be meaningful.

“There needs to be promotion and relegation, otherwise what incentive is there for teams to travel long distances to play?

“With promotion and relegation, even if it is just one up and one down, every game will be like a cup final as there will be something on it.”

Alex Hannam, the new Bideford captain, is another supporter of playing ‘meaningful’ cricket if possible.

Hannam would support an extension of the Devon League season into September if that got games played, although he feels there comes a point when a tournament based on DCL fixtures is not viable.

“If we were able to start the season at the beginning of July, playing each team only once, then that would be great,” said Hannam, who has replaced Paul Heard as Bideford’s captain.

“Playing into September would be an option to complete as many rounds as possible. I think that would be fair enough to warrant promotion and relegation.

“If we got much later into the summer before it became safe to play any cricket, I think the league would have to be voided.

“Then it should be up to clubs to arrange local Twenty20 festivals as a way of playing some form of cricket.”

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