When the history books are written, 2020 will be seen as a year like no other. Every nation has been engaged in a battle against an invisible enemy that has taken the lives of thousands and changed life completely. Borders have been shut, economies closed, human contact outlawed and the most fundamental changes to life enforced in a way not since at least the Second World War.
Having seen the successful return of football and the England cricket team, the county game is about to return. But whilst the sound of leather hitting willow may have returned to the County Grounds of the West Country, the associated noises have been vanquished.
Rather than hearing applause when a bowling change is announced, or the celebrations of the crowd when a youngster takes wickets, all that is left is the momentary cheers of his teammates, and the limited few allowed to watch on.
Those who have been in attendance at the County Ground since before the current squad were born will be kept away, most likely breaking decades of tradition, of friendship interactions, and cricketing engagement.
There has been silence before at cricket grounds, yet these were at times of conflict, when many of the Wyvern wearers were not at home, but instead fighting overseas. The First World War saw 13 players lose their lives; 6 were lost during the Second. What makes this current situation unique is that the silence is not due to a complete suspension of the season, but instead a suspension of crowds.
Cricket is not unique in being affected by this unprecedented situation – all sports had to cease operations for a period, to not only help stop the virus from spreading, but to reinstate procedures to get things back underway without risking the health of players.
Thankfully, we have seen this process be successful in many sports. From football to darts, horse racing to Formula 1, competitive sporting action has returned to our screens and entertained us deeply, with broadcasters reacting to these circumstances by giving us as much coverage as good as possible.
Yet the lack of a crowd is noticeable.
There has been no pressure on the referees in football, no pressure brought about in the final ten minutes as a result of a home crowd surge, no scenes of elation at an amazing goal.
Liverpool won the league title after 30 years, Leeds returned to the top flight after 16, and Wycombe are a Championship club for the first time in their history. All these moments that should have been met with images of crowd insanity, generational hugs and tears of joy were instead met with fake crowd noise and the players celebrating amongst themselves.
For us cricket fans, we have been able to find some positives. England have gotten back playing, and there are real positive signs in a number of areas. The Bob Willis Trophy will give us some red ball cricket, alongside the financially vital – and always inevitable – white ball return too.
And as Somerset fans, we should be grateful for the brilliant work of the media team, who are constantly seeking to improve the quality of the live streams for matches, meaning that whilst it isn’t the full experience, it is the game nevertheless.
Whilst this season may be broken, in a format never seen before, I am already excited for its return. Who will open alongside Eddie Byrom in the red ball format? How will the potential middle order of Abell, Hildreth, Bartlett and Davies perform? Will we see any more Somerset youngsters break through into the first team?
A broken season is a season nevertheless, and I will try to enjoy it for all its worth.