Gillespie talks County cricket, pay cuts and T20 World Cup

Former Australia pace ace Jason Gillespie, now coach of Sussex, predicts domestic cricket boom in the year marred by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie feels the training after the lockdown will feel like pre-season again.   -  FILE PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES

 

Ideally, Jason Gillespie would be busy with the English county season by now. Instead, the Sussex head coach is spending time with his family in Adelaide.

With the world at a standstill due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is no cricketing activity and no clarity on the season. And the 45-year-old former Australia pace ace admits that it’s ‘certainly a challenging time for everyone involved’ in cricket.

In a chat with Sportstar, Gillespie talks about the future of the English county season and how things could hold up in the future.

The English county season has been pushed back, with no clarity on resumption. Being the head of coach of Sussex, how do you see this?

We just have to take the advice of the medical experts. At this stage, it's looking increasingly likely from a County Cricket point of view that if there is some cricket at all, it will be played in the last two months of the season. So that's probably the latest what we've heard. That's a possibility. But look, at the moment, we really don't know. I'm thinking a lot more (will depend) potentially on another sport. So for instance, in the UK, if the Premier League gets underway under some sort of restrictions, then I think that could potentially pave the way for other sports, including cricket, to look at start dates for our season.

It's still a bit of an unknown and unsure, but we have to ensure that we're getting the best advice from the medical experts. And hopefully we can get some cricket. I think everyone wants to see players, when they get back out there, the fans would love to watch or listen to some cricket on radio.

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What was your advice to the players?

The players have to make sure that they're looking after their family and friends and are staying safe. So, cricket is probably not on the forefront now. But our physiotherapist and our strength and conditioning coaches are in touch with the players.

They're doing a couple of training sessions online per week on the Zoom app. Look, we've given the bit of equipment from our gym. We have sort of distributed some of the kit around to lads at homes, so they can do a little bit of exercise in their backyard, with dumbbells and medicine balls. It's a mentally challenging time. The players, at this time of the year, are used to going outside and playing cricket. We have to make sure that everyone is okay when it comes to mental health because for me that's extremely important.

Even if the lockdown is over, it may take quite a while to resume normal lives. What are the changes that you are predicting?

When the situation improves, it's essential that the lads return to training. It will be almost like a pre-season. From a physical and mental point of view, it will be very difficult to jump into competitive cricket straight out of isolation. They would certainly need a lead in so on to get themselves ready to go and be fit to play. So that's something that we'll monitor.

County is not just about the English cricketers. Many people from overseas also travel to be part of the teams...

There are so many unknowns because obviously, finances do drive the game to some extent. And we rely on the game for our income. I am sure cricket would be back at some point later this year. The game is going to suffer financially. But, talks are underway about how things will be like moving forward. I think everyone — from administrators to players and coaching staff – will have to potentially look at a pay cut because the game can only afford so much and we want as many people employed as possible. I certainly don't want to see people losing their jobs but everyone has to be realistic with their expectations. We will have to work together to come up with a solution because we want the game to be strong financially

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There has been a lot of talk about whether bowlers can still spit and shine the ball…

I think it's certainly something that will be discussed because the (question on the) other side is how do we maintain the ball? How do you do it safely and obviously we've seen with this virus that's going around, that it spreads through breathing and saliva. So, we need to be really careful. It will certainly be a point of discussion for the ICC and the cricket boards.

Not just international, even domestic cricket may suffer this year. Your thoughts?

A lot is going to depend on whether teams can travel internationally. It is possible that some countries keep their borders shut even when the play resumes. There may also be mandatory isolation periods for players and coaches. So, in a way I can see that there could be a major disruption to international cricket, but it might prove an opportunity for domestic cricket around the world to thrive. All the best players will be available to play in their domestic competitions. So, in a way, this pandemic could pave the way for some real growth in the popularity of domestic cricket in each country.

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There has been widespread speculation about the T20 World Cup in Australia, later this year, because of the travel restrictions. As a former of Australia, what are your thoughts?

I am still hopeful that it will be played. But we just don't know how. At this stage, I feel that it could still go ahead. But look, this could change in a week or two weeks. It is so difficult to predict the future. At the moment, however, we all just have to feel that it is going to play out, but I'm sure administrators will have plans in place if it doesn’t. In that case, it could again create an opportunity for each country’s domestic cricket to have a profile and become more popular. Can you imagine all Indian players being available to play for their states? Even the Australian squad members could be available for their states and the Big Bash franchises.

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