The advent of 30 names – not an official squad, as Ashley Giles has been keen to emphasise, but a large cluster of cricketers who have been summoned to train at county grounds around the country – will be about the most uplifting moment of the season so far. Until now most of the conversations have focused on whether we will see any cricket this summer. But now the selectors have zoomed and actually been talking about the merits of players who are in contention for Test matches, should that be possible from July onwards.
There is no guarantee that this is going to happen but, as my colleague Ali Martin has revealed, detailed plans have been drawn up, not just about the logistics for a behind-closed-doors Test, but also for the protocols that the players will have to abide by during their individual training sessions.
Many of the restrictions and recommendations may sound mildly preposterous. Around the nets will be disinfectant which must be used on the balls before every new batsmen faces up to the bowling machine. “Appropriate signage should be readily visible” to remind the players how to go about their business. The players should “avoid using public transport” on the way to the ground – well, I think they are quite good at that already.
My guess is that the reality will not feel quite so absurd. New routines will have to be learnt but soon they will become automatic and, hopefully, the cricket will eventually take over. There remains an optimism that behind-closed-doors cricket can happen and by and large the players all seem up for this, a unanimity that does not apply so easily in other sports.
The selectors, meanwhile, have been making a few choices without being obliged to trek around the country to do so. There is no recent evidence to study. Their choices will be informed by the fact that the training squad is geared to Test cricket and the expectation is that the uncapped players included will come predominantly from the Lions tour party that was in Australia last February.
So beyond the usual suspects, who now include Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope, expect to see the names of Keaton Jennings, Sam Northeast, Dan Lawrence and perhaps Tom Abell among the batsmen. It is also possible that Jason Roy’s ambitions to play Test cricket again will receive a minor boost. A quartet of wicketkeepers might include Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes and Gloucestershire’s James Bracey.
The spin department is not straightforward despite the anticipated return of Moeen Ali. In normal circumstances Jack Leach would be an automatic selection but yet again there are complications for him since the management of his Crohn’s disease potentially places him in a high-risk category. Dom Bess will be there probably alongside Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson.
There will be no shortage of pace bowlers in the training pool with Saqib Mahmood joining the more familiar names along with several others who will include some of the following: Olly Stone, at least one Overton (Craig) – and possibly two (Jamie) – Sussex’s Ollie Robinson and the specialists in English conditions, Jamie Porter and Lewis Gregory.
So some little positives are, at least, still on the horizon. Another one springs to mind with the prospect of behind-closed-doors cricket: that stupid little TV cameraman who usually pursues the dismissed batsman on his return to the pavilion at a very unsocial distance of four feet, will, in the summer of 2020, be banished to the stands, where he belongs.