In his monthly column, the Light Roller, Alan Gardner applies a we-need-to-exploit-the-cracks attitude to the game. This time, he imagines what the new world order will look like.
Perhaps more than most sports, cricket often feels like it exists in a bubble. You know what the Light Roller means: Test matches take days to complete, World Cups take months. The entire schedule clanks and judders along year after year, with everyone agreeing that there's too much being played while surreptitiously looking to sneak another item on to the menu. "Hundred-ball cricket? Oh, just try a spoonful. You'll love it, we promise…"
But the bubble is about to get real, in ways both darkly symbolic and oddly comforting. This is not an episode of Seinfeld or a Paul Simon song - or even the latest wheeze from the Flaming Lips. England's series against West Indies has been rescheduled for next month and it's all about the
Benjamins biosecurity, baby. That means weeks in quarantine, games behind closed doors, and presumably, more time for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare than even Jofra Archer requires.
The boys in the bubble have already been getting used to their new world. There'll be no more spit and polish on the ball, presumably to the delight of touring sides wary of English bowlers putting up their Dukes - although we're fully prepared for Sky doing a "Third Man" segment on just how many degrees of swing a liberal spray of disinfectant can produce under cloudy skies come day three of the Southampton Test.
Other details are yet to be ironed out. Saliva might be banned, but will James Anderson still get away with gobbing off at batsmen? How exactly will Covid-19 replacements work (and what will the MCC punishment be for people who refer to them as substitutes)? At least the players won't need any excuses for keeping their distance from the press.
The whole spectacle is likely to possess an inherently eerie quality. Empty stands echoing to calls of "One more here, lads" and "Has anyone got any hand sanitiser, I left mine in the dressing room?" There has been talk of piping in crowd noise through speakers, which for the full effect would presumably require a cohort of Barmy Army regulars having to get heroically drunk over the course of a seven-hour Zoom call.
In a way, it's fitting that Test cricket will be the format to clamber out blinking into the sunlight following the corona-hiatus. They say it's a dying game but still you can't kill it off. No one is there to watch but everyone will be.
It might also seem like an elaborate caricature: made-for-TV Tests, filling up the schedules and bailing out the broadcasters to whom cricket is deeply in hock. But that's for more cynical semi-humorous monthly columns to say. More than anything, once those bubble pioneers are going about their business, it will be a reminder of how much we've missed a simple game of bat and ball. A little bit of "miracle and wonder" wouldn't go amiss right now.
Bubbles being burst elsewhere, with the news that the BBC have opted not to renew Geoff Boycott's Test Match Special contract. Not quite being run out by a team-mate on this occasion, though Boycott's initial dyspeptic tweet (subsequently deleted) agreeing that it was down to him being "white, male, straight, tory" suggested he was looking for someone to blame. Perhaps timed-out would be a better way of framing this particular dismissal? Sir Geoffrey has long been an emissary from another age, but as the world has convulsed to Black Lives Matter protests - and cricket has had to confront its own issues around race - you might find it understandable that the BBC did the sums and decided that trenchant Yorkshiremen are one group not currently short on representation.
With the prospect of cricket returning in the coming weeks, we'll all soon be flicking through the redrawn schedules and making note of the big match-ups. What are we most looking forward to? Jimmy taking on Babar? Kohli against Cummins? Well, clear some space because there's one box-office clash you won't want to miss: the IPL v the Rest of the World. Yep, it's been some time since everyone's favourite multimillion-dollar T20 league stepped into the ring with the international calendar, but chairman Brijesh Patel has now signalled they are looking at the September-October window for a rearranged tournament. Never mind that "window" is currently occupied. "It all depends on the future of the T20 World Cup and Asia Cup," said Patel, in the manner of a lion eyeing a couple of stray zebras. No prizes for guessing who is most likely to get defenestrated.