Can the UK’s favourite sports answer the questions posed by Covid-19? The restarting of the Premier League will offer some clues
“There can be no summer in this land without cricket,” wrote Neville Cardus, the long-time Guardian cricket – and indeed classical music – correspondent. So far this summer we are having to test his hypothesis. In the most gorgeous weather imaginable, bats have remained stowed, wickets uncut, fields empty of fun and flowing strokes. At the beginning of July, all being well, we will finally get some cricket – Test matches between England and the West Indies in Manchester and Southampton, three in three weeks (an absurd schedule but these are strange times), played in “biosecure bubbles”. It will have nothing of the rhythm of a proper Test series; there will be no crowd; players might struggle for motivation in empty, noiseless bowls; Cardus would probably give it short shrift. But to cricket lovers starved of any games this season, it will be something on which to feast after almost three months of lockdown.
The Premier League will return this week and the Championship a few days later. Diehards will welcome football’s comeback – how hollow Saturday afternoons have been without arguments over VAR – but again it will be TV-only as spectators will not be permitted. There may nonetheless be some big-match atmosphere as Sky is promising “team-specific” crowd noise. Whether clubs will also employ cardboard cutouts in the stands remains to be seen.