Penzance director of cricket Greg Smith has blasted Friday’s decision to cancel league competition in the Duchy for 2020, writes Gareth Davies.
The former Derbyshire and Essex all-rounder described the Cornwall Cricket League’s (CCL) decision as ‘ridiculous’ and called for an urgent rethink.
Sources close to the Independent revealed on Thursday afternoon that the CCL were going to pull the plug on the 2020 campaign, which is yet to start because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty-four hours later and this news was subsequently confirmed in a statement attributed to CCL chairman Mark Mitchell which read: “The league divisions for 2020 are cancelled and will begin again in 2021 exactly as they should have this season – except for any withdrawals or new applications.”
However, the story would take a further twist later on Friday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking at a Government briefing, gave permission for recreational cricket to return from next Saturday (July 11).
Despite this most welcome news for lovers of England’s traditional summer sport, a further statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board revealed that this announcement equated to Step Four in the return to cricket roadmap.
This means matches can take place, but under adapted rules, with limits placed on using changing rooms and pavilions.
Soon after Mr Johnson’s announcement and speaking exclusively to the Independent, a frustrated Smith intimated he felt that the CCL had jumped the gun.
“They made the decision way too fast before they knew what was going on,” he began.
“There’s still almost half a season left and that’s a lot of cricket left to play.
“I just don’t understand why they couldn’t have waited a bit longer because it’s ridiculous that cricket is allowed but we now won’t have competitive cricket in Cornwall. I hope they have a rethink.”
The former South African under-19 man is also fearful that given a lack of competitive action in 2020, promising young cricketers will walk away from the game in favour of other pursuits.
“Tennis clubs and golf courses are booming and lots of youngsters are doing different things,” he remarked.
“I think it’ll be a really interesting challenge trying to get them to come back to cricket over the next few years.
“Kids don’t want to practice all the time; they want to play competitive cricket and I know of young county cricketers who have been put off the sport because of this summer and that is worrying.”
Unsurprisingly, the CCL faced a backlash from those upset at their ruling regarding the leagues and did attempt to justify decisions made via social media. They stated that the majority of member clubs voted against league cricket for 2020, but that poll was cast before permission was granted to play the sport again. It is hoped that cricket guidelines will be released early this week and the state of the game will become clearer.
The CCL did not respond to the Independent’s request for comment on these latest developments and Smith was resigned to the league not performing a U-turn at this stage.
“If they go against their own initial statement, that will look very silly but then again if all other counties are playing and we aren’t that will look silly too. It’s such a confusing situation, I went on social media to get some answers but that made it even more confusing.”
Smith went on to claim that Penzance, like many Premier League clubs, are against filling the remaining Saturday’s of the season with friendlies and feels his side need meaningful action.
“As a club, we might explore the option of hosting a Twenty20 tournament with some of the other local sides,” said the 37-year-old. “For the standard we play, friendlies can feel like a waste of time so we need that extra incentive even if that’s playing for £20, it adds motivation and that competitive edge.”