By Nick Creely
It’s set to be a different looking local cricket season in 2020/21 as associations look to adapt to a Covid normal.
But in brighter news, there is growing confidence that cricket – whether it be in metro or regional areas – will see its fair amount of cricket this season.
With news that regional Victoria has moved to the third step of the Victorian Government’s coronavirus roadmap, outdoor contact and non-contact sport is now permitted for regional Victorians under 18, and outdoor non-contact sport for adults now permitted in the regions, Cricket Victoria (CV) last week advised regional associations to consider a start date of Saturday 17 October.
With clubs and associations now to use the next month to liase with councils, prepare their facilities, complete a shortened pre-season and provide education to players, coaches and volunteers about Covid-safe plans, CV settled on that date to allow sufficient time to ensure no disruptions are going to unsettle the season.
Cricket Victoria CEO Andrew Ingleton welcomed the news, and said it was a positive step in getting cricket underway this season.
“We’re really pleased to see regional Victoria in a position to take this next step and start their preparations for a COVID-safe cricket season. I know how much people will be looking forward to getting out on the field and around their clubs which also provides a boost to the local economy,” he said.
However, the Warragul and District Cricket Association is set to stage a regional-based Covid Cup to kick off 2020/21, with the association hoping to get an even earlier start on Saturday 3 October, with a somewhat regular season involving its Cardinia Shire based clubs to then begin on 14 November.
The WDCA is hoping to field its regional-based clubs in a separate mini-tournament prior to the season-start similar to a Twenty20 competition, in order to get cricketers back on the park now that restrictions have eased in regional Victoria.
With the WDCA in a tricky position because it has both regional and metro clubs in its association, league president Michael Nielson said it was a terrific opportunity to get some cricket under its belt before metro clubs can travel to the region and play.
“It’s been a bit tricky,” he told the Gazette.
“But it’ll be a completely separate competition over five weeks, just to get people playing cricket, and the metro clubs can enter a team if they have enough players based in regional areas, but they’d be all away games for them obviously.
“That’s our plan – that was the best way to get people playing cricket as soon as possible, and some sort of fair competition.
“We have some plans in place for the second part of the season, but only once we know what restrictions are going to do, we’re aiming for that November 14 start and maybe Metro players can play, so that’s the best case scenario.”
Nielson said at this stage, Iona has entered a side in the Covid-Cup that’ll play away games, but wasn’t sure whether the other Cardinia Shire based clubs would be entering a team featuring its regional players.
In terms of Metropolitan Cricket, Cricket Victoria has also stated that if restrictions are further eased on the 26 October deadline, that associations – except for Victorian Premier Cricket which is slated for a 21 November or 28 November start – should set Saturday 14 November as its season-start date, allowing enough time for Covid protocols, pre-season training, a potential practice match and preparation of facilities to take place.
If restrictions ease further, it would allow for non-contact outdoor adult sport to resume, as well as non-contact and contact outdoor sports for juniors.
The West Gippsland Cricket Association (WGCA) – which hosts one regional club but the rest in Metropolitan Melbourne – is planning to kick-off on 14 November in a season played purely in a one-day format.
WGCA vice-president Rob Hansen said the association is set to meet with clubs this week, and hinted that they were considering looking at a number of different options, including hubs, scrapping promotion-relegation for the season, and much more to ensure enough cricket is going to be played.
“We’ll look at recommendations from Cricket Victoria, and they’ve recommended all one-day cricket, so we’ll look at that,” he said.
“We’ll look at the possibility of treating the whole season as a one-off, so the things we do won’t be repeated perhaps when we get back to some normality, whatever that is.
“We’ll consider the form of the season, whether re-considering promotion-relegation, have a one-day champion, or alternatively changes to the finals.
“And the other suggestion floating about which is a possibility is playing in hubs so instead of having the grading set-up, maybe having six teams in a hub which aren’t too far away from each other. It’s obviously got to be accepted by clubs.”
Hansen said the social aspect of the season is going to look much different this year, with essentially a turn up, play, check-out and go home system.
“We’re scrambling to put in place the Covid restrictions,” he said.
“The social aspect will have a whole impact on how the whole thing operates.”
With a large array of clubs and the only Turf competition based in the south-east, the Dandenong District Cricket Association (DDCA) is still weighing up how 2020/21 looks, with the association set to meet with clubs this week as they settle on a season start date.
But at this stage, it is understood that the DDCA’s preference is to start on Saturday 5 December, with a 14-match one-day season the most likely scenario, but have handed clubs an alternative scenario which would involve some two-day matches.
The association – which is in the middle of some of Metropolitan Melbourne’s current outbreaks – are allowing themselves and the clubs enough time to familiarise itself with the strict protocols required to play cricket this season.
The Victorian Premier Cricket competition is looking likely to kick-off a week earlier, on Saturday 28 November or Saturday 21 November, allowing a four or five-week lead in for clubs to start preparing for the season.
As has been the recommendation since CV released its playing dates for the season, the Victorian Premier Cricket season is set to be played in one-day format, with each team playing each other once, with local clashes set to fill the first block of the fixtures.
The Mornington Peninsula Cricket Association, meanwhile, is targeting a 14 November start if Metropolitan Melbourne restrictions are not changed by the Victorian Government.
The MPCA last week stated that it will need to allow at least two to three weeks training with a potential practice match – which will help clubs practice and ensure they have Covid-19 protocols in place.
With discussions with clubs and council ongoing, the MPCA are hopeful of a 14-round season with games to be played purely in one-day formats, meaning they can fit in games and avoid a potential shut-down if a third wave hit Melbourne.
The MPCA are also exploring the option of still playing its Twenty20 Jack Peacock Cup, however its expected that the format and fixturing will have some restrictions.