Who will catch T20 sixes in empty stands? - Chris Waters

MANY questions keep me awake in the dead of night.

Go fetch that: England's Jonny Bairstow in T20 against New Zealand. Picture: Martin Hunter/Photosport via AP

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Find it yourself: Internationals will soon a get a taste of life on the village green when they have to search for the ball.

And so on.

One question that has been bugging me more than most lately, however, is this … who’s going to throw the ball back?

In other words, when it’s whacked into the stands in the behind-closed-doors internationals that start next month, who’s going to clamber around the deserted seating at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford to find and retrieve the ball, considering the limitations on the numbers of people allowed inside grounds and the likely absence of ball-boys?

Moreover, who’s going to throw the ball back at county venues if the same restrictions apply during any T20 Blast competition in August/September?

One's a crowd: How cricket could look on resumption. Picture: PA

Why, T20 games could last for several hours if balls keep being creamed into empty stands and players have to grope around trying to find them, exasperated cries of ‘lost ball’ going up as they might on the average village green.

The question is part-lighthearted but also part-serious, yet another logistical challenge for the England and Wales Cricket Board to consider.

Heaven knows they have enough on their plate already in trying to keep everyone safe in the so-called biosecure bubble, but such questions will need to be addressed at some stage – if only so that some of us can satisfy our curiosity and nod off to sleep.

I put a call into the ECB and they said it may well be that players have to fetch the ball themselves, as they would on the average village green.

Protocols around the use of the ball and who can touch it are high on the ECB’s and their medical staff’s agenda, with the situation/government advice changing on a regular basis.

The key point is this … the ECB are doing all they can, first and foremost, to protect the players and to get cricket back on behind closed doors for the time being, with the hope that spectators will be allowed into venues later in the summer.

If there are no crowds, though, there are unlikely to be any ball-boys either, meaning a potential problem whenever a batsman strikes the ball for six.

With playing conditions under constant review, and with the ECB feeling no need to dive in and solve all the fine detail at this stage, particularly while the overall situation remains fluid and uncertain, it may be that more balls are used/rotated and that umpires allow time for any delays.

In cricket, as in life, normal procedures are necessarily having to go out of the window, with the ECB’s imperative being to try to get cricket back on, first of all, even if that means having to basically make do and mend as best they can.

As regular readers of these ramblings may know, if they actually exist and are still awake at this stage, this column has not always painted the ECB in a golden light surrounded by a halo.

On the contrary, the governing body has not covered itself in glory in recent times, particularly with its stubborn determination to press on with The Hundred even though the overwhelming majority of cricket supporters think that it is a load of tosh and enough to make a cat laugh.

This is not the time for raking over that old territory, however; there will be plenty of time for that if this virus ever clears off and life gets back to normal.

Instead – and you might want to make sure that you are sitting down if you are not doing so already – it is the time for praising the ECB and acknowledging that they have, up to now, had a pretty good crisis, as it were.

Particularly impressive, perhaps, has been the way in which they have been honest and upfront from the start, saying that the priority is to play money-spinning white-ball matches at a time of enormous financial uncertainty for the counties.

The ECB’s priority is always to play money-spinning white-ball matches, you might argue, to which I would counter that they are perhaps not always so upfront in how they go about that, but there has been a distinct lack of guff coming from headquarters lately - aside, perhaps, from the expedient claim that the coronavirus crisis only proves/strengthens the need for The Hundred.

The ECB has issued advance payments to the counties, giving them a lifeline at a time when no income is coming in, and they have provided much-needed financial support for the recreational game.

Certainly speaking to some of the key figures at Yorkshire, such as chief executive Mark Arthur and first-team coach Andrew Gale, there is widespread recognition of a governing body doing all it can for the sport in its hour of need.

Editor’s note: First and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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Sincerely. Thank you. James Mitchinson, Editor