With the ECB’s recent announcement that professional cricket will return to our lives, albeit behind closed doors, cricket players have found themselves removed from furlough and back to the training ground, but a training ground like none they had seen before. One of solo practice, social distancing and often not even training at their county grounds.
I caught up with Derbyshire all-rounder Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who made his first team debut midway through last season, having impressed in the second team, following his release from Sussex. Embarking on this new training regime to cement his place in the side for the 2020 season and beyond, certainly is not a routine challenge, as he said:
“It’s obviously very strange because usually in preseason, you meet up with a squad, you’re all excited to see each other again, especially those you haven’t seen him for a while. Some players I haven’t seen since we went into lockdown. So there will be that feeling of excitement when you get to see everyone again, but it’s almost like you can’t get too excited. You can’t get too close to anyone and you have to stay distanced and at the moment, we’re not even allowed to train in training groups.”
However not being able to train in groups does bring with it some benefits as Fynn pointed out; “it’s good in a way because you get your own time with coaches now. So usually in preseason, you don’t get as much one to one time, it’ll be building up squad training, making sure everyone’s getting their loads up, so in a sense, it’s good to get a lot of one on one time.”
Even the actual process of training is different for Fynn and everyone, as he described the training scenarios, saying; “You’re not allowed to go out to the cars until the other players finish training and have left the facility and all this, all that stuff, making sure you stay away from the coaches all the time. You’re having to view videos and feedback from a distance. So it’s quite strange like having a look and making sure when you’ve touched equipment, you put it to one side so it can get cleaned. We’ve got our own set of balls.”
“So they’ve given us six balls that we carry around with us and I only get to use them and I think When we go indoors with Mal (Loye) he’s the only one that’s allowed to touch the bowling machine balls or the cricket balls or the sidearm so he’s not allowed to come down into the net or anything. So it’s lots of tapping balls back by bats or kicking balls back down the wicket which is interesting. It’s almost a little bit rude but because of the situation. We’ll do anything to play.”
Whilst he was happy to return to training, he has kept himself busy during the lockdown period while on furlough by keeping fit. Although not having a definite season start point to aim for proved difficult for him as he talked through the training he had been doing saying:
“The first sort of six weeks I was really into the fitness stuff, smashing out some runs like two sessions a day. And then I got to like the six week period and I was just like I’ve burned myself out because I worked so hard. And I was just like mentally so drained. So I think when we got this day sort of saying we’re going to be back in for the first of July, aiming for a August 1st start, it was almost like a three week period of trying to build up again.
“Enjoying the period of trying to build up and get everything in good order again has been nice but I think when you didn’t have a date at the start it was almost like it’s not gonna happen so that was quite draining at the start but now it’s obviously the case that I’m back into it now which is great and hopefully I think I’ve got a fitness session this afternoon as well it’s going to be interesting.”
It hasn’t just been fitness work that has kept him busy though, he has been taking a proactive approach to life after cricket:
“I spoke to the PCA a little bit trying to get some sort of experience through social media and media training and I’ve spoken to Derbyshire a little bit as well. Just trying to sort of plan around maybe getting something sorted in my future outside of cricket or maybe even inside cricket, I don’t know.
“But just trying to broaden the things I’m interested in, see if there’s any sort of leads anywhere, trying to tee up a few things for the end of the season, hopefully when things are a little bit more active.”
Anyone who has seen any of Fynn’s social media output during lockdown will recognise he has a lot to offer and has continued to engage with members and supporters throughout. Something he was keen to point out the club had also done with him:
“They’ve been very good, I couldn’t really have asked for better from the club, Ryan (Duckett Chief Executive) and Ian (Morgan, Chairman) have done a great job. They have arranged a zoom call with the players once a month, just to make sure we’re doing okay and a few messages just letting us know the situation here and there, but obviously, on furlough the government have said stay out of contact.
“We haven’t really been in contact with the coaches but the group of guys who aren’t on furlough, they’ve kept in contact with us and made sure we’re all in the loop and know what the state of play is, so really it’s been great. We couldn’t really ask for much more in such a tough situation.”
It has been a tough situation for everyone, and I am not trivialising the pandemic, but it will be great to have cricket back again, come the first of August and when it is back I am sure Fynn Hudson-Prentice will be ready for action, irrespective of how strange the preseason training has been.