The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has extended its suspension of the professional game until July 1, which means at least nine rounds of County Championship fixtures will be lost.
Some counties, including Yorkshire and Essex, have cancelled or deferred contracts of overseas players due to the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which has shut down sports globally.
Paul Farbrace, sporting director at Warwickshire CCC and former England men’s team assistant coach, spoke to Sportstar about the challenges facing county cricket and the way forward.
Q. The county season has been delayed until 1 July, with the prospect of further setbacks to come. How has Warwickshire dealt with the uncertainty of it all?
A. As a club here at Warwickshire CCC, we are very well organised, have excellent people and have concentrated our efforts on helping the community as much as we can. We have a mobile testing station set up at the Edgbaston Stadium, and we are setting up a food storage centre as well. It is frustrating that we can’t play cricket, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help other people.
Does the current crisis give the county clubs and ECB a chance to rationalise the calendar?
We are all looking at the calendar and working out how we can play games, and obviously, that starts at the top with England fixtures and then filters down to county fixtures, second XI fixtures, women’s cricket and age-group cricket. We are looking at how far into the autumn we could potentially play for. The main thing is that we adhere to government advice and will only look to return to playing when and if it’s safe to do so.
If this pandemic drags on, is there a realistic possibility of counties going under, players and staff struggling to make ends meet?
No, I don’t think there is a concern that counties will go under, as I have said the ECB has been superb in their help and support, and I think the game is strong enough to support this very tough period, but it doesn’t mean that we will all just carry on as normal once we can start again. I am sure there will be lots of areas that will be looked at from a financial point of view.
The Hundred has been delayed by a year. Was it a prudent call considering the financial ramifications?
I think it’s a sensible approach to delay The Hundred until next season . The game needs the tournament, but it needs it at full capacity and with large crowds and the best players from all over the world, and if that can’t happen then it’s a sensible move to delay it until it can be played and supported properly.
What, according to you, is the way forward for the county and international cricket in England?
The way forward is for everyone to do exactly as they are doing, stick together, work together and make very sensible decisions to allow this great game to continue to flourish and grow around the world.