As I began to write this the sun was shining; the temperature was climbing towards 20 C, and Somerset were playing a three-day pre-season game at Taunton. Thank goodness. I need Somerset cricket. Competitive Somerset cricket.
The last twelve months’ experience has demonstrated to me how much the activities and fortunes of our county club are woven into my very being. We’ve all experienced that feeling at the last home game of the season when we realise it is going to be six long dark months before we can all meet back at our hallowed headquarters. For me, this winter has been far far harder.
Part of that is clearly due to the restrictions we have all been subject to. An equal part to the lack of in person spectating last year. That fact that our cricketing souls could only be partially replenished and at that only virtually left me, and I suspect many others feeling un-ready for the winter hiatus.
I tried. I watched as much of the delayed, behind-closed-doors IPL as I could. I dutifully devoted my December and January mornings to the Big Bash but by the time England started their tour to Sri Lanka and India I was empty. My passion for cricket gone, swallowed, I believe, by the distance the pandemic had placed between my county club and me last summer.
The last couple of editions of The Cricketer have remained unopened. The usual websites remained unvisited and SomersetNorth, apart from its annual Spring clean and a few tweaks to how it looks and works remained untouched. I’ve tried to write, there has been plenty to discuss, but it has just not been there.
I can only attribute it to how hard this third lockdown has been through the long winter months. No excuses. I just hope you will all not have deserted me.
And then Somerset posted an image on social media last week, and the passion returned. In a rush. Entitled “the skipper is back in the house”, that single image of Tom Abell in Somerset training gear at the CACG started the mental countdown to the start of the Championship season.
This was followed closely by the arrival of Thomas Blow’s new book “The Kings in Waiting”, and the pending release of another joy of Somerset history, Stephen Hill and Barry Phillips “The Cricketing Gods” have given me a much-needed nudge. “it’s late March Steve and it is almost the cricket season”.
So in two days we will be into the start of the County Championship season. Somerset will be back at Lord’s where last season’s truncated campaign ended. A season that is harder to predict than any in my life for a variety of reasons. A season where pre-season games will have even less relevance than usual.
The start of the 2021 season will be bittersweet though. Tres has left for his new role with England. Dom and Jamie have gone North and East respectively. The highly regarded Jim Troughton has replaced Marcus as part of Jason Kerr’s staff while Marchant de Lange arrives to try to fill the enormous boots left by the departing twin.
And, of course, while we all hope and pray that the pandemic is receding to manageable proportions, we have the looming thought of The Hundred. It would be utterly disrespectful to those who have suffered so grievously in the last year to draw parallels between the two, yet it is not unreasonable to compare the impact of the two in their ways. I remain hopeful that this monstrous folly of the ECB’s imaginings will crash and burn as soon as possible, leaving English Domestic cricket in the rightful possession of the first-class counties.
SomersetNorth will aim to continue to provide a fan’s perspective on the summer and the fortunes of Tom Abell’s side but I hope it will offer more in 2021. The constraints placed on the Somerset staff by the financial necessities of furlough have meant that I’ve not felt it right to burden Ben and Spencer with requests for information and the site will not for some time benefit from new images from the games or the ground. So you will notice I have revamped the look of the site to accommodate these restrictions.
I’m not going to make any rash statements about my plans for SomersetNorth. If the last year has taught us anything is that making any sort of plans is unwise. But I have plenty of ideas that I hope will come to fruition as the season unfolds.