Cricket Club Inside Track Blog: what happens before a ball is bowled

April 17 sees the 2021 recreational senior club cricket season get underway in the UK. The weather is kind for most people and everyone is delighted to be playing again after the Covid experience of the past six to eight months. Games get started following a two minute silence in memory of Prince Philip. A few hours later players chat about the game, compare scores, averages, misfields and banter and it almost feels normal again. This is not the case as
restrictions are still in place and we all need to adhere to the guidelines stipulated by
Government and the ECB but at least we have played.

What many people fail to see let alone understand is the sheer volume of work, planning and communication that goes on behind the scenes by thousands of volunteers in order for everything to be in place in readiness for the season to start before a ball is even bowled or a game started. Here is my insight into some of those things involved which have to be done in order for that first  game to be played.

To begin with in order to have a game of club cricket, players need a cricket ground and a wicket prepared sufficiently for it to be safe to play. This means that each club needs a groundsman/woman or team of people happy to help get the playing surface prepared for the first match. This in turn requires certain knowledge or agronomy etc and a certain supply of equipment such as mowers, tractors, rollers, covers, sight screens and much more all of which need to be checked over for maintenance & upkeep. Quite simply put, without the ground staff, there simply won’t be grounds available in a fit enough state to play the game we all love and this has all had to happen working within the confines of lockdown, furlough etc etc in the past few months…

Secondly, Club cricketers need a fixture list of games to plan their Summer around and this in itself is a logistical challenge without the restrictions of Covid to consider as well. So well done to all those involved in running cricket leagues up and down the country without whom even with a pitch no organised games would happen.

Thirdly, even if club ground staff get the grounds ready and league secretaries plan and communicate fixture lists, no 1st team games will get played in many leagues if qualified umpires are not available. So this is another area that needs meticulous planning and coordinating to ensure there is a panel of umpires and scorers ready to turn up and officiate the matches and ensure that the spirit of cricket is respected and maintained.

In addition to all of the above, cricket clubs appoint a list of volunteer club officials at their AGM to help get things ready for the season well before the season starts. Covid has prevented these people from meeting in person so many have had to get to grips with technology such as Zoom and Teams to ensure communication is maintained and decisions are reached on all club cricket matters. All clubs will appoint their senior team captains and vice captains at this AGM as well as a Cricket Chair and a Junior Coordinator whose roles are to set the vision and strategy for the cricket at the club and put in place the infrastructure to deliver that strategy.

Each Chair and Junior Coordinator will appoint a committee or team of volunteers to support them in getting things ready for the upcoming season who will look at things like finance and fund raising, member support, safeguarding, social media, coaching staff, managers etc etc.
The Club Secretary’s role is massive and vital to the success of the club as it covers pretty much all off field administration and management so requires someone who understands how to communicate, influence and get things done.

Now we are getting closer to being ready for some cricket. However in order to get games on, clubs need players and enough to take the field to represent each club across the different senior teams each weekend. This requires the attention of not only the Club Captain and Vice Captain but also Club Chair and Director of Cricket all of whom need to have an eye on keeping players motivated and enthused in the off season as well as being on the look out for new recruits. Once a list has been drafted and memberships fees have been paid, clubs will have a better understanding of what that roster looks like and can start to arrange pre season outdoor practice sessions. This is a logistical challenge in itself as it needs to ensure all players have the opportunity to practice across senior teams and junior age groups each week. Pre Covid it would be typical for many clubs to practise indoors but this has not been allowed this Winter so practice has only just recommenced in the past few weeks. In the week of the first games, selection will take place and teams will be announced a few days before the weekend typically only for the best laid plans to be affected a day or so later by players dropping out, unexpected absence, last minute illness etc etc. Selection should be straight forward but very rarely is and causes all sorts of debates in cricket clubs all over the country.

So what/who have we not mentioned yet?

● Teas? Well that one has been made easier thanks to Covid restrictions in that now every player has to cater for themselves as cricket club teas are not allowed for now.

● Bar and liquid refreshments: for many cricket clubs the bar is the central point of social interaction not just for the cricketers but for the local community. This has been
massively impacted by Covid and clubs have had to adapt and adapt and adapt to meet the guidelines and ensure everyone’s safety.

● You need a supply of cricket balls to play cricket and in Covid times you also require
sanitiser gel and wipes to ensure the risks of passing on the virus are kept to a minimum.

● Finally the County Cricket Boards play a vital role in supporting clubs in their regions across many different areas but especially in communicating guidance around Covid which has been essential in helping clubs plan.

In summary, there are so many different stakeholders who play their part in ensuring that the
games that were played April 17 could get played and I hope this blog gives you a better insight into most of the key elements that comprise a cricket club’s administration and management, 99% of which as already stated is delivered by thousands of passionate volunteers who care so deeply about this wonderful game.