IN a world without coronavirus, cricket clubs would be ready for the start of the Somerset League (April 25) and West of England Premier League (May 2).

But with public health the priority, that simply isn't an option at the moment.

The County Gazette spoke to Taunton Deane Cricket Club’s Sam Shaikh and Harriet Kelly about the impact of lockdown.

Shaikh and his fellow 1st XI players were gearing up to compete in WEPL Premier 1, having earned promotion last year.

He said: “We would be having our pre-season friendlies and looking after our three grounds - undertaking the maintenance of those, getting them ready for our first league matches... so usually it’s a very busy time of year.

“We haven’t been able to integrate our new players into the teams, which is a shame.

“We had a few new players come in for the step up [to Premier 1], which was eagerly awaited - we were all looking at the fixtures with anticipation.

“We hoped to kick on and build on last year’s success.”

The Deane hoped to field Somerset cricketers Jack Brooks, Jack Leach and Roelof van der Merwe in some of their matches, but Shaikh admits: “The general consensus seems to be that the season will be written off, but we’re waiting for confirmation from the leagues.

“If any cricket is played, it may just be friendlies, with the leagues null and void.

There’s more to the club than the 1st XI, of course, and Kelly planned to play for both the 5th XI and women’s team this year.

“The women’s team were going to be in the Devon women’s league; our first of 12 matches would have been last Sunday [April 19],” she said.

“We have a huge range of ages in the team - young players and mums as well.

“We have quite a big girls set-up at the club, so a few 16-year-olds were to come into the ladies section.”

In terms of the financial impact, Shaikh said: “The feeling is that we will be OK, as we’ve been well organised financially over the last five to 10 years.

“We’re in a position to go again, as we’re well supported by our generous sponsors and the money from the bar.

“We feel secure that we can survive this, but you can be surprised at just how much it costs for a cricket club to exist - up to £1,000 a month.”

Another issue is player retention, with Shaikh adding: “On the senior side, we’re a sociable bunch, so I don’t see an issue there.

“There is a slight concern with youth players, as if you don’t have them playing cricket at all one summer, will they come back?

“That would be difficult for any club, but we’re lucky to have a well organised youth system and good contact with local schools.

“So we hope people will want to play cricket again when it returns.”

Kelly said: “We had some new people joining, so this may impact on that - or it could make them more keen!

“We have a WhatsApp group to keep in contact, and we’re looking to post videos and challenges for people if this goes on longer.

“We will see, when we come back, if we can hold a big event to get people together and raise some money for the club.”