Yorkshire CCC captain calls for Championship to be streamed

YORKSHIRE captain Steve Patterson is hoping that the County Championship can still be salvaged despite the overwhelming probability that it will be lost to the coronavirus crisis.

Optimistic: Steve Patterson.

Patterson is staying optimistic that some form of four-day tournament could yet proceed as the England and Wales Cricket Board ponder various revised schedules based on whether the season can potentially start in June, July or August.

Half of the Championship programme has already been lost after the ECB confirmed that the season will not begin until May 28 at the earliest, and the board has openly admitted that it will prioritise money-spinning white-ball games if the season does get going, putting the Championship at obvious risk.

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But Patterson, who captains Yorkshire in the format along with the 50-over Cup, another tournament set to be ditched, is not yet ready to write off a Championship competition so dear to the hearts of the Yorkshire members.

top signing: Dawid Malan.

“Who knows, we might still end up playing half the Championship season,” he said. “We could play every team once, something like that, and there’s plenty of ways that it could be arranged.

“It might be that we can play some, or all of the games, behind closed doors, in which case streaming the matches might work, too. You’d perhaps charge a nominal fee to watch, and I think you’d get a really good response; you obviously wouldn’t need to steward the grounds, you wouldn’t need all the security, so financially that might be a good idea.”

Patterson, 36, is keener than usual for the Championship to proceed. The pace bowler – a key member of the 2014/2015 title-winning sides – is in the final year of his contract and determined to win a new deal for 2021.

“For players like myself who specialise in particular formats, it’s a difficult time, just as it’s a difficult time for everyone,” he said.

“The ECB is certainly going to prioritise T20 when we do get going because clubs need that to survive; they need the revenue from it, which is perfectly understandable.

“But, for someone like myself who’s older now and got a limited time left in the game, to potentially not have any cricket to play this summer, while I’m in the last year of my contract, is not ideal.

“My intention was always to carry on next year and, if this year doesn’t happen in terms of the Championship, I guess the one positive is that I wouldn’t have aged in a cricketing sense by having a few more hundred overs in the legs.”

Patterson’s frustration is compounded by the fact that he believes Yorkshire have assembled a squad capable of potentially winning the Championship again.

The club has suffered a few barren years during a period of transition as the title-winning teams of the mid-2010s have gradually broken up.

Patterson became captain at a difficult time in 2018 when Gary Ballance stepped down due to health issues and as Yorkshire plotted a new course under head coach Andrew Gale.

However, there were signs last summer that things are on the verge of clicking into place, and Yorkshire have since pulled out all the stops to sign the likes of England’s Dawid Malan in a clear indication that they are ready to have a serious crack at winning trophies.

“I suppose, as captain, it’s the first time, since I took over the job, that we’ve got that kind of squad available with the potential to really challenge,” said Patterson.

“We’ve recruited well and have got a side that can compete on any surface, home and away, and our younger players are a year older too and ready to kick on.

“It’s an exciting squad, a talented squad, and it’s just a shame that this disruption has come when it has. The only hope is that if we don’t play this year, there’s no reason why that squad can’t be as good next year or even better.”

The immediate future for that squad – in line with many employees up and down the country – could well be a temporary period of absence under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The scheme, which allows employers to claim 80 per cent of an employee’s monthly salary up to £2,500, involves individuals being put on furlough.

“Obviously, the furlough scheme has been brought in to support businesses and companies that aren’t trading at the moment and can’t trade, and I suppose we fit into that category because we’re not allowed to play any cricket,” said Patterson.

“I think if we were put on to furlough and the club topped up the wages as required so that the lads are not out of pocket, then I think it would be a sensible move, because it could save the club a lot of money – upwards of £50,000 a month.

“In a sport where money’s tight anyway, if it gets the club through a tricky patch, then I see no reason why it couldn’t work. Hopefully, the current situation will start to improve and we can get back playing as soon as possible.”

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