Half a loaf better than none
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
THE Northern Cricket Union have made plans for a much abbreviated season in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The season is due to start on Saturday, April 25 but, as the country goes into lockdown, the Domestic Cricket Directorate have drawn up a schedule with a July 4 start date, giving them a 13-week season to conclude on the last weekend in September.
By playing on both Saturdays and Sundays most weekends — weather-permitting — the full 14-match Premier League season could be played alongside the Challenge Cup and T20 (knock-out) Cup.
However, feedback from clubs was that would be too onerous on the players’ work and/or family commitments so the second option currently on the table is, again with a July 4 start, for the eight teams to play each other only once and Fridays to be utilised for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the T20 Cup plus, as usual, the Challenge Cup final.
Weather-permitting that could be completed in nine weeks, so unlike the first schedule there could be rearrangements.
No thought was given to the Irish Senior Cup as that is a Cricket Ireland competition.
The North West, who have a nine-team Premiership this year following the decision not to relegate Ballyspallen, are also “actively looking at contingency plans for various scenarios, including several different start dates in the season” and will consult with clubs before any action or plans are agreed.
As in all the other unions throughout Ireland, all cricket activity is suspended and although the official end date for that is March 29, everyone expects that to be significantly extended next week.
The most pressing issue for clubs is the employment of their overseas professionals.
The North West, in a written update, said: “We are unable to provide any guarantees or assurances regarding the entry into the country of overseas players or the potential quarantine period they may face on arrival. We would advise clubs to monitor UK government advice on travel both in and out of the country.”
One of the countries which has imposed an indefinite flight ban both ways is South Africa which, by some margin, has the most professionals working in Northern Ireland.
NCU champions CIYMS have signed Migael Pretorius, Jacques Synman is due back for a second season at Carrickfergus, Andre Malan was released by Civil Service North after last season but has been snapped up by Waringstown and newly-promoted Woodvale have hired former Carrick professional Pat Botha.
The North West would also be impacted if their season begins before any flight ban is lifted with Donemana and last year’s Championship winners Ardmore both recruiting South Africans, Ferisco Adams and Pabalo Mogoera respectively.