Walker and Denly back cricket return
Walker and Denly back cricket return

Both Matt Walker and Sam Denly have welcomed the return of recreational cricket to Kent.

It was the weekend that the sound of bat on willow reverberated around the club grounds and village greens around the county and across the country – cricket is back!

Competitive cricket at club level may yet be some way off following last week’s decision to cancel the 2020 Kent League season, but “recreational” matches returned this week just a few days after the opening Test of the summer began in Southampton, which will all precede the start of the County season on August 1st.

We’ve been talking to Kent Coach Matt Walker and Sam Denly, the new captain of Whitstable Cricket Club, for their reactions and what we’re likely to see for the rest of 2020.

“We’ve still got a bit of hard work to go through yet,” admitted Kent coach Walker.

“It’s great news – I think I don’t just talk for the players, but also for all the cricket lovers who want to see the game return. But I think that now things have started to loosen a bit, and we’ve got the Test match on our screens, footballs back as well, other sports are starting to happen and there was of course the itching desire to get back and play County cricket.”

“We’ve now got the date which is great – we’ll soon know the formats and the schedule – but we all know that we’re doing it! It’s nice to have a goal and it’s nice that we’ve now got a light at the end of the tunnel that everyone can aim for.”

“It is going to be bizarre playing in front of no crowds. I’ve been involved with the England squad both for the Test and the inter squad game, there was no-one else in the ground except for the staff and some media which really was strange and unusual and does take a real mindset change to get people into that frame of mind – they’re professional cricketers and you can argue that they should be able to do that, but you do feed off an atmosphere – it’s human nature.”

“You want a bit of something back when you hit a four and your side takes a wicket – it is unusual and probably one of the big factors this season – unless the rules change significantly – is that there won’t be anyone at the ground, and that is going to be a challenge!”

“Even with just the smattering of people that you sometimes get watching county cricket you get a buzz off the crowd!”

Captain Denly was equally happy to get back into his whites at The Belmont. He told us, “It’s been a long time coming to be honest, but it was great to get the good positive news and a date that we could actually put the whites back on.”

“I have to admit that I was starting to think that there wouldn’t be any cricket played this year, but with the situation changing from one day to the next, I was concerned that it might be it, but luckily the powers that be have seen some sense and we can get going again!”

“I know footballers are being tested all the time, things are getting back to a sense of normality – now whether that’s too soon or not, at the moment no-one knows, but it’s happening and for cricket not to be a part of it was ridiculous. So thankfully common sense eventually prevailed, and we’ve been able to get back playing.”

“We’ve also been able to reopen the club, which is massive for us as our revenue is very much from the bar takings and hiring the club out – which we still are unable to do sadly – but I can’t see that being able to happen in the near future, but the bar being open is a massive plus for us as we’ve a lot of members and a lot of locals who drink in there which makes it our make source of income.”

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to stay open for the foreseeable future as well.”

Denly then paid tribute to those who have backed the club so well through the dark days of the pandemic.

“The support we’ve had from the locals has been brilliant,” the skipper told us.

“We’ve cut the subscriptions in half – there’s been no cricket and like everyone we didn’t know if there would be any. We still asked for the fees and everyone has paid which has been brilliant.”

“The parents of the youth (section) have contributed so much for the club which has helped the cricket club survive even without cricket being played.”

“The community in general at the club has been fantastic to help us to ensure that the club maintains its’ status, which it will do – we’ve had grants accepted which helps, but everyone around the club has been excellent and done what they can to make sure that to be blunt, we’ve got a club in 2021 when we do start playing competitively again”