Northants batsman Wakely says recreational cricket has to return 'for the future of the game'

Northants batsman Alex Wakely has joined the calls for the Government and ECB to give the green light for the start of the recreational cricket season.

By Jeremy Casey
Thursday, 25th June 2020, 2:59 pm
There has been no recreational cricket played in England since last September
There has been no recreational cricket played in England since last September

Wakely believes it is crucial that grassroots cricket is played before this summer is finished 'for the future of the game', even if it means just a 20-over competition being played in September.

As the lockdown put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic continues to be eased across the country, pressure is growing on the Government and the ECB to get people playing cricket again.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has been very vocal on the subject, while England fast bowler Mark Wood said the country is running the risk of 'missing out on the the next Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer' unless the grassroots game returns.

Northants batsman Alex Wakely

The Government confirmed earlier this week that recreational club cricket will not resume until ways to make the game more secure are approved, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that 'the ball is a natural vector of disease'.

In a statement, the ECB replied: "We believe that cricket is a non-contact sport, with very low risks of exposure, and that it can be played as safely as many other activities being currently permitted.

"It is our strong desire to work with Government to see the return of recreational cricket on or around 4 July, as they continue to lift other restrictions more broadly across society.

"We can confirm that any guidance we share with the game will include directions on how to mitigate any risk from handling the ball as we continue to prioritise the health and safety of the cricket family in all our decision-making.''

But for now the sport is still on the banned list, and although Wakely accepts cricket is in many ways a special case, he believes something has to be done to get people, young and old, playing again.

“I have seen a lot of the stuff about grassroots cricket and why can’t they start,” said the former Northants skipper.

“I agree with some of that, but then I think that cricket is different to other sports, in that you are out there all day, you are catching the ball every over.

“In football, you are kicking a football rather than catching it, even though you are close to each other it is not for long, and with cricket it is the time.

“You are with each other for such a long time throughout a day, so I suppose the risk of contamination could be higher.

“But for the future of the game, I hope we do get grassroots cricket back being played."

Northants' cricketers are also currently sidelined, but hopes are high for professional cricket to resume sometime in August, and Wakely also wants to see the game get going at the scores of clubs across the county.

“Yes, we play professional sport, but ultimately it all stems from the bottom and we need the kids playing cricket, and we need the clubs playing cricket," said the 31-year-old.

“I would like to think that here in Northants the clubs could have a T20 tournament, or even a 10-over tournament in September.

“We could be very, very strict on things, and have it that people can’t come and watch, and I think if there is a way that we can get cricket on, then I think we have a responsibility to the game to try and do that.

“As professional athletes we can probably have a say on that, and try and say the right things to give the ECB a bit of a push.”