Gordon Hollins and Andy Hurry spoke to the media on Friday afternoon in Somerset’s first every virtual press conference.
Who would have thought it? Little old SomersetNorth rubbing virtual shoulders with the great and the good of cricket writers for this afternoon’s virtual press conference this afternoon!
I have to say at the outset that my over-riding impression was very positive. Neither Gordon Hollins or Andy Hurry gave the impression of anything other than calm control. That’s not to say that they are not dealing with a myriad of unprecedented issues at the moment, the like of which none of us has ever seen let alone anticipated. But Somerset fans should be reassured that their club is in good hands.
I have to say at the outset that I really like Hollins. Some Somerset fans may see him in a slightly negative light after his 12 years at the ECB. That would be unfair. He clearly “gets it” in terms of what Somerset Cricket is all about. His opening comments centered around the “fantastic loyal fanbase” and the “deep resonance the club has in the community.”
Hollins openly admitted that he has no idea where his plan for his first 90 days is! And while apologising for not having done more to reach out to the club’s stakeholders he was clear in what was important to ensure the club “comes through this stronger”
Unsurprisingly there was a lot of discussion about the club’s finances. Hollins referred to his staff briefings he described the impact COVID-19 would haveon the club as being “sore”. As to how sore that would be impossible to say until the timing the lockdown was known.
Hollins confirmed that the players, majority of the coaches and other staff had been furloughed with only those members of staff who are “absolutely needed” being retained at present.
Reassuringly Hollins clearly intends to be at the CACG for the long-haul. You suspect that at 57 he sees this as his last career move. If that the case the long-yearned for stability for the club will be achieved.
Hurry explained that the reaction of all of the staff has been nothing but supportive and positive. Many of the players and coaches are using the time where they can only “cricket-train” to a limited degree to enhance their other skills and focus on their personal development. The club and players have clearly been party to ECB and PCA support and guidance which Hurry said had been invaluable.
With the news today that there will be no professional cricket in the UK until at least 1 July Hurry speculated on whether there will be a pre-season for Somerset (not sure). He also focussed on the need for the bowlers to have time to prepare before any form of middle cricket. Any return of competitive cricket on 1 July will require the players to be back in training several weeks before.
One thing that will be ready very quickly is the ground itself. New head groundsman Scott Hawkins has not been furloughed and will be able to produce playable pitches and outfields in the space of a few days.
Asked if hurry would be happy playing games behind closed doors showed how much the players and staff value the support of the Taunton crowd. Hurry clearly would like to play in front of our passionate support. But the ever-pragmatic former marine said if it was a choice between playing cricket behind closed doors or not playing we were left in doubt that he would jump at the former.
The comments made by both Hollins and Hurry left me in no doubt that the ECB and the counties are working on the practicalities of playing with the doors shut.
Most tellingly for me was Hurry saying that for him the hardest thing has been the separation of the players and coaches. We all know Hurry is keen on ethos and DNA but here it was writ large. It showed on Hurry’s face that he is missing his players hugely, missing the routine of practice, play, socialise that normally occupies his time between April and September.
It was a very refreshingly honest and open performance from Somerset’s “top two”. While you could sense the burning desire to start the process of returning to competitive cricket, there was a steely determination to protect everyone connected with Somerset cricket.
There was only one moment when there was a slight awkwardness. BBC Somerset’s Charlie Taylor asked Hollins about the situation he had inherited following the hasty departure of his predecessor. Hollins, clearly, is not in a position to say anything on that just yet