The last international game of cricket that took place before the game went into lockdown – Australia against New Zealand at the SCG – was a prelude to what is likely to be at least the short-term future when the sport resumes but Ross Taylor has admitted the behind-closed-doors encounter felt more like a warm-up game than a fully-fledged tussle.
Overnight, the match in Sydney on March 15 went from being set to welcome around 20,000 spectators to taking place in an empty ground with the crack of bat and ball being the clearest sound of the day and the cricketers themselves climbing into the stands to fetch sixes.
It remains very uncertain when the international game will resume – there is still hope of an English season while Australia and New Zealand have kept their Covid-19 numbers low – but one thing that seems of little doubt is that it will be a considerable time before crowds return to stadiums.
“It was quite strange leading into the game. There were lots of whispers about the game being cancelled and everything happened very quickly,” Taylor recalled. “In the context of the match, turning up the preparation felt a bit strange. To me it felt like a warm-up game, didn’t feel like a true international match but I guess once you get into it it’s no different to if you are playing a competitive game of backyard cricket or a club game, you give it your all.
“But I’m not going to lie, it did feel very strange. At the same time there could be a few games like that so I’m sure as players we’ll have to adjust to that and get used to it.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was interviewed via Spidercam after conducting the toss alongside Aaron Finch and then had to motivate his team in an atmosphere of near silence. However, he did not think the overall standard of the contest suffered and expects players to make the most of when the sport does return.
“The cricket can definitely be played at a high level. The guys were all professional in how they went about their business,” he said. “It is odd, though, and creating your own atmosphere, I don’t think you can ever quite create what a full house might do when there’s simply no one there and all you hear is the crack off a cricket bat.
“You have to adapt and that may well be something players will have to get their head around to allow them to be back on the park. When something is taken away from you, you are often more than happy to compromise to get back to some sort of normality and do what you love doing and that’s play cricket.”
While still 10 months away, with countries grappling with the risks of mass gatherings before a vaccine or further treatment for Covid-19 is available, it is possible that the Women’s 50-over World Cup which New Zealand is due to host next February is played on empty grounds. For allrounder Suzie Bates, the prospect of such a thing does not sit well at all.
“That would be a huge disappointment especially with how far the women’s game has come,” she said. “I think if you’d asked me five years ago I’d have said it wouldn’t have been too much different. Growing up, most of my cricket felt like it was played behind closed doors but nowadays with the attention we are getting and being at home it would be a huge shame if it had to be played like that.
“I’d personally rather wait until we can do it as normal when this has all cleared up, teams are able to travel and we are allowed crowds in the ground.
“I feel like New Zealand Cricket is now in a position where they realise how important this World Cup is to cricket in New Zealand, not just women’s cricket but cricket in general, and I feel like they are really excited about the opportunity to see how many people they can get into grounds around the country.
“Obviously it’s on TV but it’s about the atmosphere they can create so I think they’ll be doing everything they can to make sure they can host it as normal. If there have to be changes made I have faith they’ll do their best to have it with crowds.”