After last weekend saw Vanuatu and Taiwan welcome the on-field – and live streaming – action since the global COVID-19 lockdown, Czech Cricket have kept the good news coming.
June 20 has been announced as the day the European nation, now ranked 54th in the latest men’s T20I global rankings, and the current record-holder for highest T20/I total, will see the return of their domestic cricket with both Division One & Two of their T20 League to commence on the same date.
“We are hoping that matches will be available to watch online,” Chief Operations Officer & League Administrator of Czech Cricket Terry O’Connor told Emerging Cricket. The governing body is “also open to working with a broadcast partner.”
“We are all obviously excited about the return of league cricket in the Czech Republic, which is only possible due to the situation here improving so dramatically as a result of the strict restrictions that were put in place. The government released a timeframe for the gradual lifting of restrictions, which will see training sessions resume this Monday for our adult men’s teams while limited junior training resumed on Saturday,” O’Connor continued.
“At the moment it is possible for people to train in pairs, and so our nets are open for clubs to use with one bowler and one batter, they will open up fully on June 8th, when restrictions are further lifted.
While allowing sporting events to recommence from June 8, the government will limit these to 50 people being involved, no spectators will be allowed, and fixtures will need to be structured “in a way that ensures the safety of our players and officials. Without compromises to either participants’ safety or the laws of the game,” said O’Connor.
“The restrictions put in place by the government were amongst the strictest in the world, and were introduced before there had been any deaths in the country, as such outdoor sporting activities were not possible at all for quite some time. Due to this we have been focusing on improvements to our facilities and off field aspects of Czech Cricket, we operate a net facility that all of the Prague based clubs utilise and we have been doing some much needed improvements to that and we are in the process of moving both pitches at our Vinor Cricket Ground, that will result in both fields being larger and should mean they are able to host T20I’s.
“But it has also been a time when cricket has taken a backseat in most of our members’ lives and we have respected that and let them focus on far more important things, but as many of them are here as students or working here while their families are abroad, Czech Cricket is their community here and so clubs and our National Team squad have been participating in online Challenges and some have been raising money for local charities to assist with the effects of the pandemic. While our development partner, KACR, has used the time to produce 30 videos for their coaches to use with kids.
Chris Pearce from KACR spoke of the challenges coming out of lock down.
“We did our first kids hard ball training yesterday (Saturday), it was nerve-wracking to say the least – the kids have been ‘locked up’ for 6/7 weeks and for many it was the first time they saw their friends in that time. Keeping social distancing, not interacting between groups, getting them to disinfect their hands before padding up etc was difficult as they were just bundles of pent up energy.
“That being said, it seemed to go really well and even seemed to have progressed thanks to the video trainings we recorded for them. On Saturday we had two groups of 7 or 8 that were separated, so that shows about 2/3 attendance from before COVID-19 in this group. I hope it’ll just be a matter of time before the remainder rejoin this group and we can start to reopen the other groups too,” Pearce told Emerging Cricket.
The pandemic has resulted in the Czech Republic having to cancel their Pro40 league this year, but the administration will look to have other tournaments instead, once underway.
“Our T20 league will be the biggest ever with 16 teams taking part in two Divisions, up from 12 teams last season. Teams in each Division will play each other once with the top four then progressing to the Semi-Finals which will be in September,” O’Connor continued.
O’Connor concluded with some promising news for those looking for more live cricket action.
“We are hoping that matches will be available to watch online, we have been streaming The Pepsi Cup Prague, our annual international Club T20 tournament, for a few years now, and so doing something similar is very possible, but we are also open to working with a broadcast partner.
The Czech cricket season, however, will get underway without a familiar face around.
Scott Page, described as a ‘legend’ of Czech Cricket, passed away suddenly on April 24. Page was “not just our groundsman, but the guy who in the early days was the driving force behind getting things moving,” said Chris Pearce.
Page was 52. Andrew Nixon has written more about the Australian’s contribution to Czech cricket for Cricket Europe here.