CRICKET officials are cautiously optimistic that a full programme of spring and summer matches can be played, barring any further bouncer from the pandemic.
The new Yorkshire Southern Premier League, comprising nearly all of Rotherham’s clubs, is due to start on April 17 and play through until September.
Fixtures have been released and a full roster of cup competitions, including a T20, will give players plenty of game time after the frustrations of last year when Covid-19 meant play didn’t get underway until July.
But even though outdoor sports, including cricket, could be allowed from March 29 as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the game’s administrators are taking nothing for granted.
YSPL chairman Matt Summerhill said: “At this stage we are planning for a full season to commence on April 17 but we want to be ahead of the game if the current lockdown continues.
“We have, therefore, created a small sub-committee to look at contingency planning for disruption to the season. We hope to be in a position to release these plans to clubs shortly.”
As with all areas of life, much could depend on the rate at which Covid infection rates fall this month and how that dictates Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s social distancing guidelines for April. Access to clubhouse facilities is one of the considerations.
At a national level, cricket chiefs are talking to the Government about a way forward and the result of those talks will filter right down to local level.
David Ward, the YSPL’s vice chairman and head of its senior section, told the Advertiser: “At this stage we are playing a full season and every cup competition and with full overs.
“The only thing that will stop us is the English Cricket Board guidelines. The ECB is in discussion with the Government and Sport England at the moment.
“Sport England put a lot of funding in to help clubs out and obviously want a big say on whether clubs play or not. They are very keen to get clubs playing, don’t get me wrong.
“I don’t think they will all be in too big a rush to release any more information out before March 29 while they are sorting things out.
“It’s a case of waiting and seeing and being patient.”
One thing in cricket’s favour is the goodwill built up with the Government last year when the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) praised the manner in which the ECB adapted to the Covid-19 management strategy.
Back at local level there is extra anticipation for the 2021 season and the new league, which is the result of a merger between the Yorkshire South Premier League (YSPL) and the South Yorkshire Senior Cricket League (SYSCL).
The YSPL will comprise 61 clubs fielding a total of 124 teams in Saturday league cricket, mainly across Rotherham and South Yorkshire but reaching also to South Kirkby and Wakefield in West Yorkshire, Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire, and Coal Aston in Derbyshire.