Wiltshire Cricket Talent Pathway - Covid-19 Update and Information

Message from Wiltshire Cricket Managing Director, Peter Sykes

The purpose of this message is to make contact with all of the girls and boys players (and parents) who were involved in a talent pathway programme with Wiltshire Cricket during the 2019-2020 winter. For players of all ages and abilities this has clearly been a very frustrating summer but for girls and boys on talent pathway programmes we completely understand the sense of lost opportunities you will be feeling; both from a developmental point of view and in terms of the prestige that comes with representing your district or county. On this note I would pass on a message of reassurance that you are not alone. Girls and boys up and down the country are going through the same experience and what will actually be most important is how you respond when Cricket does return as well as how you may have tried to keep developing your game whilst at home. On this note there are many different videos, blogs and activities that you can engage with in your own time.

In terms of an update on Covid-19’s impact on Cricket and what this specifically means for talent pathway activity both this summer and in to the winter I hope the below will provide some helpful information…

Where are we now?

Before I provide some specific information on talent pathway cricket I would signpost you to a message I released to the cricket club network across Wiltshire on 19th June 2020 and would specifically advise you to read the section entitled ‘Recreational Cricket – Some important context’. The message can be read here; https://www.wiltshirecricket.co.uk/news/2020-06-19/wiltshire-cricket-covid-19-recreational-game-update.html. I mention this so as to provide some context around the complexities that we face in terms of getting recreational Cricket back on.

ECB’s roadmap for the return of the recreational game:

On 11th June, the ECB released its roadmap for the return to play which outlines the plan for a return to matchplay. This roadmap can be viewed here; https://www.wiltshirecricket.co.uk/news/2020-06-11/ecb-update-roadmap-for-return-of-recreational-cricket.html. At this stage, the recreational game is currently at step 3 which permits small group practice of up to six individuals (or five individuals and a coach). The roadmap also highlights that there will be a necessary step between where we are now (step 3) and getting back to normal play (step 5). This step is known as Step 4: Adapted Game Play.  

In terms of the junior talent pathway it is important to communicate that whilst the ECB has its roadmap, this is currently only aimed at the club game. What this means is that despite being at step 3 of ECB’s roadmap, which permits Small Group practices, we are not allowed to organise any County Board led training for our county and district squads. This is because pathway activity has not been approved as an audience by the Government. This is clearly very frustrating for us as a Cricket Board but an important message for us to pass on as the last thing we would want any of our players to be thinking is that we are not being pro-active in providing pathway training opportunities in line with ECB guidance. Indeed, as soon as we are permitted to do so we will be absolutely keen to try to provide some support to the young players that have already missed so much Cricket this summer. This leads me on to my next points regarding this summer and next winter…

What’s next?

In simple terms there are two developments we are waiting for with regards junior talent pathway activity:

  1. The Government approves talent pathway cricket as an audience that can operate within the ECB’s roadmap – if this was to happen today it would mean we would have the green light to organise small group practice for district and county squads
  2. The Government permits the ECB to move to step 4 of its roadmap, thus allowing adapted matchplay to take place – if this was to happen, in conjunction with point 1 above, we would be able to investigate the possibility of organising some matchplay for our county and district squads in whatever remaining window we have this summer

This summer:

It’s really important for me to be up front in saying that I do not know if or when points 1 and 2 will happen and therefore trying to provide any definitive information on what the remainder of this summer might hold is very difficult. However, what I can say is that if we do get the green light to organise talent pathway activity we are committed to doing whatever we can for our players (within the parameters we will be required to work and appreciating some of the limiting factors we may be restricted by). On this note I have already hosted a Zoom call with all of our district and county coaches and managers to ask them for feedback on what availability they may have later in this summer. Having held this meeting and received subsequent responses from many coaches involved in our pathway I am incredibly heartened by the willingness and capacity of our coaches to provide opportunities for the players within their squads later this summer. What this means is that as soon as we are given permission to do so, we will be able to start organising some activity for our pathway squads. However, an important few caveats at this stage would be:

  1. Any activity we are able to provide may look different to a normal district/county experience; simply because we will need to be guided by the safety measures and the specific guidance pertaining to pathway activity
  2. A possible scenario is that we are only able to provide localised training opportunities as opposed to a normal county/district matchplay experience – again though we will be guided by the information we receive from ECB and Government
  3. There will be limiting factors around how much we can deliver, most notably;
    1. availability and capacity of clubs to host pathway activity in addition to their own club activities (an important point because clubs may be at reduced capacity of volunteers and may also feel that the safety and hygiene measures that will be required to host club activity cannot be extended to pathway activity for this particular summer)
    2. personal circumstances of our pathway coaches (whilst there has been a positive response from many district and county coaches I am very keen that we operate in a tolerant way towards individuals who may have personal circumstances that mean they are unable to, or do not feel confident to deliver activity this summer

I mention tolerance in the final point above and on that note I am keen to stress that there will be no pressure placed on any young cricketers who do not feel comfortable in participating in any organised cricket this summer. As a society I believe we will need to very tolerant of personal circumstances and personal assessments of risk, and Cricket should be no different.

This winter:

As well as discussing this summer, I have also begun a dialogue with our coaches about next winter’s district and county coaching programmes. Again, there is a huge amount of uncertainty around the indoor leisure sector and this will inevitably have some impact on the design and look of our overall winter coaching programme. However, we are looking to be pro-active on this by; a) making contact with leisure facilities as early as possible to at least open up dialogue regarding the winter, and, b) speaking to coaches about firstly their availability and also their ideas for what the winter programme could look like given different possible scenarios that we may be faced with.

In addition to the logistical side of the winter programme, we are aware of certain policy decisions that we as Wiltshire Cricket are going to be required to make, ranging from how to make selections if we were to play no cricket this summer, to how we might use a window this summer to help inform selections for this summer, to how we support girls and boys within age groups that may ordinarily have been at the end of their pathway experience this summer. These are all live conversations that will evolve over the coming weeks as we learn more about the restrictions we may need to operate within. However, please rest assured that we will keep the cricket network in Wiltshire informed of any major decisions we make in relation to the winter coaching programmes.

I hope this update has proved useful. Unfortunately, there is still of a lot of uncertainty out there and so I apologise that I am not in a position to answer all questions regarding what the remainder of this summer, and on to next winter, will look like. However, I hope at the very least this message will have provided some context and background to some of the challenges we are facing but also some of the work we are doing to be prepared for any opportunities we might get in the near future.

If there are any specific questions on any of the above, or questions that are not answered by the above information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Best wishes,