11:00AM, Friday 01 May 2020
Cookham Dean president Jim Rosenthal wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s very little cricket played this summer, and, while the club’s plans for a new pavilion have been shelved, he’s confident they’ll come out the other side of this pandemic in a reasonably healthy position.
However, while Cookham Dean should be around for many more years to come, he can’t be sure other clubs have such healthy reserves of cash, and goes on to say the prospect of there being little - or even no - cricket this summer will make it harder for all clubs to retain and recruit talented young players in the area.
This week the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspended all professional cricket until July 1, and with community and county cricket likely to fall in line with that, Rosenthal isn’t confident there’ll be much of a league season to speak of this year.
“It would be wonderful if we got some cricket but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we got no cricket,” he said this week.
“From our point of view we’ve got healthy reserves which we were putting towards a new pavilion. That’s been shelved for two years now and it’s the biggest project in the club’s history.
“But the saddest thing for me is, what the ECB have said about there being no cricket before July 1, that effectively wipes out the whole colts season.
“We will lose cricketers full stop because of that. Kids being kids they’ll fall out of the habit of playing and they won’t be interested when cricket comes back. That’s very, very sad.”
Walking around the club’s grounds last week, Rosenthal said it felt like the pristine looking outfield and fine weather were almost mocking him.
“Last Friday should have been the first colts evening of the new season, a night when up to 300 people come through the pavilion doors and spend money at the bar while colts matches take place on the wicket and outfields. It brought it all home just how much me and the club are going to miss out on this summer.
“I don’t know about the balance sheets of every club around,” he said. “But our good husbandry over the years means that we’re ok in terms of survival. Others might not be so fortunate, but, it’s a bit like a pub. If you don’t have anyone coming through the door for six months you’re not going to be flourishing.”
Cookham’s survival bid in Home Counties Cricket League Division 2 went down to the final half hour of their final match last season, and, while it proved unsuccessful, Rosenthal says the club were gearing up nicely for another shot at promotion from the Thames Valley League Division 1 this summer.
All that has been put on hold, but it’s the impact of the virus on the junior section of the club and health of the game in general that he’s more concerned about.
“Last Friday should have been our first colts evening,” he said. “We usually get around 200/300 people there and it was a wonderful sunny evening. Of course the club was shut and no one came through the doors, it’s so frustrating.
“We’re doing our best with WhatsApp groups and have run a few quizzes to keep the club spirit going. But it’s devilishly difficult when you can’t get two people together.
“The ground looks so good at the moment. It’s almost mocking us. We’ve got a very good groundsman who has got it looking fantastic.
“Most of the money comes in from subscriptions and from the bar. People might continue to pay their subs but if the bar takings go to zero it’s very difficult. It’s not just match days, it’s functions, we would be booked out with parties and weddings.
“But, we have also been careful and have been building up this fund for a new pavilion and that will help make sure there’s a Cookham Dean Cricket Club for a long time to come.”
Rosenthal is still coming to terms with the fact there’ll be very little cricket played this summer, and the chances of that cricket being competitive is even more remote. It may also make it more difficult for clubs to retain and bring in players for the 2021 cricket season.
“The reality is it will very difficult,” he said.
“Where do you get changed? Will the wicket keeper stand five yards further back because of social distancing? Even sports like tennis or golf are fraught activities in my mind.
“If you look at how slowly things are moving, my gut says it will be the Autumn before we have any sport to talk of. And that’s still guesswork. There are a myriad of complications.
“I think for a club like Cookham Dean it would be friendly matches at best.
“To have any kind of promotions or relegations would be absolutely ridiculous. You might be able to pull together some sort of cup competition. A few friendlies at best. But that’s the reality of it. We came down from the Home Counties last season. Our survival bid went down to the last hour hour of the last game and we were looking strong in winter nets until we had to stop them.
“We played much better last season, even though we were relegated and we were looking to make a real impact in the Thames Valley League this season.
“Keeping the team together will be tough. There’s a huge drop off in players during the teenage years and that’s getting worse and worse at club level.
“It’s a battle sometimes to get sides out and this summer will make that a lot harder. We’ll have to crank things up again for next year. When things crystallise we’ve got to be thinking ‘how can we come back?
“And what can we do to get people back to the club?”
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