Likely format for cut-down Devon League season to emerge after chairmen's conference with ECB on Wednesday

Woodbury & Newton St Cyres batsman Jimmy Jones in action against Honiton back in 2018

By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE

CLUBS in the Tolchards Devon League should know by Friday or Saturday what sort of cricket they will be able to play once competitive action starts.

July 25 has been pencilled in as the likely day for competitive cricket to start and Devon League officials have confirmed they want to have something in place for clubs on that date.

Exactly what clubs will be able to play remains unknown as the ECB has not yet issued parameters or guidelines to leagues.

Nick Rogers, the chairman of the Tolchards Devon League, hopes the situation will become clearer by the end of the week once a video conference with ECB has taken place.”

“We have now reached step four on the ECB roadmap, but ECB have not said yet what return to play with some adaptions means,” said Rogers.

Nick Rogers“There will be have to be some social distancing restrictions between players and that wicketkeepers might have to stand at least half a metre back from the stumps.

“All we know is there will be some fielding restrictions and that adaptive cricket will be 11-a-side.

“Eight-a-side, which had been suggested, was a concept the ECB picked up from the world of education based on safe class numbers. A four-acre cricket field is not the same as a classroom.”

Rogers will join other league chairman on Wednesday for a Zoom video conference, during which the ECB will spell out what is and is not permitted under the step-four guidelines.

Rogers said league officials have been considering a number of options for competitive cricket for a shortened competition running from late July into early September.

Club views were sampled in a survey sent out by the league in late June, but Rogers feels more discussion may be needed to reach an acceptable solution.

“We asked club officials what they thought and it could be the players have different ideas and it might be an idea to ask captains as well,” said Rogers.

“We are working to a tight timescale and if clubs don’t come back to us quickly it may be we have to assume their views have not changed.”

Numerous ideas have been doing the rounds in Devon cricket circles with no obvious consensus so far.

Among the suggestions are five-team geographical conferences based on existing divisions (eg: Premier East and Premier West), localised T20 festivals with a midweek option, or grouping clubs into mixed-ability divisions based on proximity.

Rogers said officials are still weighing up options and are mindful of some potential pitfalls.

“Twenty20 festival days would mean at least 33 players plus officials rather than 22 which could be a problem for the host club,” said Rogers.

“Five-team divisions mean one side will have a blank Saturday every week and I am not sure clubs would be happy with that.

“And putting teams together because they are close to each other could lead to some serious mis-matches.

“We also have to be aware of the limitations on clubhouse use and preparations needed to meet government guidelines which some clubs with small volunteer workforces may find hard to carry out quickly.”

In theory competitive cricket could start as early as July 18, although Rogers does not think that is likely.

“A nine-week season starting on July 18 would be possible if clubs can reach an agreement quickly, but the survey showed clubs are still concerned about restrictions on travel,” said Rogers.