IN SPORTING terms it appears common sense has prevailed at last after Prime Minister Boris Johnson did a major U-turn to allow the return of recreational cricket from next weekend, with some Isle of Wight clubs looking set to arrange friendlies.

After angering and depressing the Isle of Wight's cricketing fraternity less than two weeks ago by describing cricket balls as being 'vectors of disease', — scuppering hopes of a return to recreational cricket — Johnson yesterday (Friday) announced its reintroduction, to start next Saturday.

The latest announcement came just hours after stating the sport was unsafe because of "the teas, changing rooms and so on," as he put it. 

Isle of Wight County Press:

Kate Barton, of the Isle of Wight Cricket Board, said: "Boris was being Boris. He was wrong to say those things. He adlibs too much.

"However, I'm glad he did do the U-turn. I give him credit for that — for listening to those who understand the Covid risks, the ECB and former England Ashes winning captain, Michael Vaughan."

The latest government update signals progression of the ECB’s roadmap to return for the recreational game, with Covid-19 guidance expected to be published in the coming days.

It means competitive cricket in England will be adapted to respect coronavirus hygiene and social distancing.

Isle of Wight County Press:

"At the end of the day, it's wonderful we have got cricket back next weekend and happy for all its diversities. It is great news for the game on the Island," Kate added.

The PM's rash comment came after he dodged why recreational tennis had been allowed to resume in recent months, but not cricket.

“It’s a valid point. There are reasons. These debates have gone round and round. There are various other considerations," said Johnson.

"The longer answer, which I think probably Chris Whitty (the government's chief medical advisor) would give, if he were here, about cricket is that the risk is not so much the ball, although that may be a factor.

Isle of Wight County Press:

“It’s the teas, it’s the changing rooms and so on and so forth. There are other factors involved that generate proximity, which you might not get in a game of tennis.”

Yet by the afternoon, the government back-tracked after they sought fresh medical opinion and scientific advice.

”Having been stumped on radio, the third umpire was invoked. What I can say is that we do want to work as fast as possible to get cricket back — and we will be publishing guidelines in the next few days so cricket can resume in time for next weekend.”

Isle of Wight County Press:

The ECB had initially been critical of Johnson’s radio comments, describing them as totally bizarre and ill-informed, but welcomed the change of tack.

Kate, an ECB-qualified coach, continued: "I expect matches will be held next weekend. I'm sure some have been planning for such news over the lockdown period.

"I didn't think we would get the go-ahead until after county cricket started, to be honest.

"There has been talk of a mini-league on the Island, but it's unlikely to get off the ground, and Hampshire were talking of doing a Twenty20 league, but one which would see no travel to the Isle of Wight and would disadvantage Island clubs wishing to join.

Isle of Wight County Press:

"There will be senior and junior team Zoom meetings next week, which could see possible leagues being suggested, but I don't think we'll see any competitive cricket this summer, although it really all depends on the clubs."

Some cricket clubs have already indicated they will not be playing any competitive cricket this summer.

For the youth cricket scene, they have had some invaluable practice time, thanks to the Isle of Wight Cricket Challenge, run by leading Island coach, Andy Woodward, a former pro player.

Isle of Wight County Press:

ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison, said: “We have had a responsibility throughout this period of time to work with the government and to plan alongside the cricket network to try and mitigate Covid-19’s impact on the 2020 season.

"We have maintained a constant dialogue with government and they've been supportive of our desire to see recreational cricket return when it is safe.

“They now agree that with appropriate measures in place to mitigate the risk, it is safe.

“We know how difficult it has been for everyone to go without cricket this summer, and we thank you for your patience."

  • For detailed guidance for clubs on return to the use of cricket grounds, click here