At a time when English cricket has never faced as many unknowns, there is one certainty: the game will be hit hard financially. Tom Harrison, the ECB's chief executive, estimates that an entire summer without cricket would cost the game over £300m, while counties are already furloughing staff to ensure they can get through an unprecedented crisis.

If and when county cricket is played this year, it needs to make money. That means the T20 Blast will be prioritised, as the main revenue-driver for most clubs, and few will dispute the logic behind that.

But that leaves scores of professionals in an uncertain position - those who have made their names wearing whites on chilly April mornings know that they face an entire season without a meaningful County Championship. The competition's first seven rounds have already been lost, and while the ECB are hopeful that some form of red-ball cricket will be played, the likelihood of fitting a full season in is almost zero.

Here, ESPNcricinfo asks three men for whom Championship cricket represents the majority of their season about the prospect of a year treading water: Leicestershire opener Hassan Azad (yet to make his List A or T20 debut), Hampshire seamer Keith Barker (no white-ball appearances since joining from Warwickshire in 2018) and Sussex batsman Luke Wells (Championship stalwart but no white-ball games since 2018).

How was pre-season before everything kicked off?

HA: It was meant to be in Spain, but it was cancelled two days before we flew out. I spent the winter in New Zealand, and I got back just in time. I was meant to be flying through China on the way back but I had the foresight to change that in January.

LW: We were in Cape Town for a few days. It got to a point where South Africa started to put in measures, and we were like: 'right, let's get home'. A few of us managed to get home early but the rest were locking down, effectively, in the hotel for a couple of days. Everyone was trying to change flights, but there weren't that many of them.

The ECB have made it clear that white-ball cricket will be prioritised this year. What's your view on that - disappointing but understandable?

KB: It's a shame that it's come to this. There will be quite a few lads out there that are red-ball specialists, or on red-ball contracts. It's going to be a very strange season in general. For clubs - not just in cricket, but in all sports - it's about trying to make do financially, and making sure you get the most possible out of this season to help start off again next year.

HA: They have to look after the finances of the game. Ultimately, that's going to be beneficial for us in the long term. Let's be honest, not many people turn up to watch County Championship cricket, and it doesn't really get broadcast anywhere. At Leicestershire, we aren't in a particularly great [financial] position, so I'd want to club to secure themselves as best they can.

LW: I personally have no problem with the fact they're prioritising the white-ball game - it earns all the revenue, it needs to happen. It's the unknowns that I find most troublesome: trying to work out what's going to happen while knowing you can't affect anything.

It's compounded by the fact I'm going into the last year of my contract, and there's still a lot of unanswered questions in terms of what happens. Normally it's black and white: you're judged on performance, runs and wickets are your currency. But if we play no red-ball cricket whatsoever, what happens?

What would you think about a season in which you played each team once?

KB: Coming towards the end of a season, certain teams will normally look to set games up, and I think that would happen from the get-go. It would be forced - it wouldn't be as competitive as it would be over a whole season.

HA: I don't think promotion and relegation can come into it this year unfortunately. If you consider teams like Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, who worked so hard to get up to Division One - for them to potentially be kicked back out because they lost a couple of games, that would be very harsh.

"When you're stuck at home and you can't play any sport whatsoever, you realise why you do it in the first place"
Luke Wells

Are any of the alternatives you've heard a good option?

HA: I've heard a few different ideas. I heard something about a regional competition. I think that could work - if we got four games with five teams to a region, or three teams to a region and everyone plays everyone twice with six groups… just something to still have a bit of four-day cricket with a little bit of meaning.

LW: What would happen for the next year? Is it just a random, one-year special cup, the COVID-19 trophy? It wouldn't have any prestige to it. Who would care? If it's not like the Championship, and is just some cobbled-together competition in the hope of playing a bit of cricket, it wouldn't sit particularly well with me. You should either do it properly or can it.

If the season is reduced to white-ball cricket only, would you be pushing to get into that team?

HA: Definitely. I spent the bulk of the winter working on white-ball skills. You obviously still work on what your strengths are, but there's a lot more to be gained working on areas you don't have that experience in. I had a pretty good season in New Zealand, and found a method for myself. Even if it hadn't got shortened, I'd have been trying my best to get into those teams. You've got to work towards something - otherwise you're just hanging around, and I've never been someone who's alright with just doing nothing.

KB: Yeah, definitely. We're paid to play cricket: if I can at least put my name in the hat to be in the squads, then 100%. There's nothing else to be focusing on, so yeah, that'll be the case.

LW: I've been trying to get into those teams most of my career! Our T20 team is unbelievably strong at the moment, to be honest. When we're full-strength, I'd back us to take down almost any team, any franchise, anywhere. It's unbelievable. I'd love to play if I can, but that's obviously a very difficult one to break into.

Would you be ready to jump in without much of a pre-season?

KB: When it's announced when the season will start and which formats, teams will be looking to get their lads back in. It is frustrating - you're building up your fitness, your workloads are becoming more and more intense, you're building up physically and mentally for the start of the season. We'll have to start all over again when it does start. It's going to be intense: you'll have to hit the ground running, even though we can't bowl or have a hit currently. It'll be a bit of a free-for-all.

HA: Maybe just two or three full days of training would be alright - it's going to be the same for everyone. Players are used to moving between formats and it's a completely different game going from white-ball to red-ball cricket and then back. As long as you have a couple of days getting into the swing of hitting a cricket ball, I think most people would be fine with that.

How is training going in lockdown?

KB: I've been doing stuff in the back garden. We got some equipment from our strength-and-conditioning [S&C] guys, so it's about doing what you can with the programme that you've been given. It's very limited, but it's about trying to make do.

HA: I'm trying to get into a routine. I got some equipment before the lockdown, so I've got a bar and a few weights - a mini home gym going. We've been told that we'll have fitness tests straightaway whenever we get back, so we can't be resting on our laurels.

It's a bit of a kicker but there are bigger things to worry about. I might not be much of one, but professional athletes are entertainers. This gives you a bit of perspective about what life means in a bigger sense. There are people out on the front line of this, putting themselves at risk, doing jobs that aren't usually appreciated. If we have to take the backseat for a while and lay low, so be it.

LW: Our S&C team have been really good. They've sent us through all sorts of programmes. My fiancée and I have been working out together, and I've found myself throwing a ball around with my little one, doing a bit of catching. When you're stuck at home and you can't play any sport whatsoever, you realise why you do it in the first place. We all just want to get out and run around again.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98