AN official from the Bradford Cricket League (BCL) believes the league title may not be contested this year, which would be a first in its 117-year history.

BCL communications officer Alan Birkinshaw said the league was cautiously optimistic over the chances of cricket in late summer.

Birkinshaw revealed that if a return to play is permitted amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the BCL title, which even went ahead during the two world wars, would almost certainly not be up for grabs.

The BCL would instead concentrate on playing the Priestley and Jack Hampshire Cups for the top two, and bottom two, divisions respectively, while also potentially scheduling Twenty20 cricket.

“We are hopeful we may get some cricket in August and September,” said Birkinshaw.

“If that was to be the case, we would be unlikely to have a league programme and instead we'd concentrate on our cup competitions.

“We would have to reformat them because they are straight knockouts at the moment. If someone was to lose their first game, that would be season over.

“So we would look to base them on a group format where everybody plays each other and the winners go through to the knockout stages.

“It would be the first time ever the league hasn’t been contested in the Bradford League, because even through the First and Second World Wars it was played.”

Earlier this week, the ECB confirmed that it was seeking to progress discussions with the government to begin mapping out a return for club cricket, which includes the possibility of an earlier return for junior cricket. The BCL is one of four ECB Premier League competitions within Yorkshire.

“I speak to members of the management boards of the other leagues, and we are still holding out hope we can maybe do something from August onwards,” said Birkinshaw.

“But they’re also mindful that it has to be financially viable to play cricket over a short period of time, because if clubs still aren’t able to generate any revenue through bar takings and such, playing could become a drain on them.

“There are two important things we are aware of.

“The first is if any cricket is possible, we won’t compel our clubs to take part. It has to be on a voluntary basis because there are still people very concerned about the situation we are dealing with.

“Another thing we are not looking to do at this moment in time is to extend the season beyond its original end date of September 12. We believe if we can start at the beginning of August, we could still finish by then.

“We are mindful that players may have booked holidays for immediately after the season, before all this started to take hold.

“You might say, ‘Those holidays will be cancelled anyway’, but we don’t know that yet.”

Earlier this month, the government allowed the first baby steps towards a return to play to be taken - with socially distanced one-on-one training at venues such as Bradford and Bingley.

While there are obvious positives to that decision, Birkinshaw says it also provided many people with a “reality check” regarding a return to 11-a-side cricket, given the many things which will need to be implemented, such as no changing facilities, players turning up in kit, bringing their own teas and only one scorer in a score box.

Should cricket not return this summer, the focus will surely then turn to how players can get their cricket fix during the winter. Indoor cricket maybe?

Birkinshaw added: “That isn’t something we have spoken about as a league yet, but it possibly could be.

“Woodlands were due to play in the national semi-finals at Lord’s at the end of March, the first week of the lockdown. The intention is for them to do that in October now.

“As I say, we haven’t canvassed opinion about it, but I would have thought cricketers starved of the game this summer may be more interested in that sort of thing this coming winter than they have been in the past.

“There’s a Yorkshire-wide competition at the moment where clubs voluntarily enter, but we’ve never thought about staging our own league competition

“Having said that, maybe Woodlands’ success might just capture a bit more imagination.”