How life has changed due to COVID-19 – a letter from a first-class cricketer

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I am writing this letter on the day (15/04/2020) I was supposed to fly out to the United Kingdom for a summer of cricket, but as we are all well aware the deadly Coronavirus has brought the world almost to a standstill, including sports.

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The routine of most Sri Lankan first-class cricketers at the end of their season in March/April would be to travel to the United Kingdom(UK) for a summer of cricket which is usually from April to September. But most leagues in the UK have already been called off or postponed indefinitely meaning most of my other colleagues too who were supposed to travel are forced to stay in Sri Lanka.

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The domestic season in Sri Lanka began with the Limited Over and T20 Tournaments during the 2019/2020 season and we were in the middle of the longer format when the Coronavirus forced the country into a lockdown. The first round of three-day matches were concluded just before the tournament was put on hold after our last match that ended on the 15th of March, and life has taken a complete turn ever since.

Our usual routine before the lockdown was training twice a week and matches during the weekend from Friday to Sunday. I would think being stuck at home for an athlete is a completely different challenge compared to most other professions. The challenge of having to keep fit and not losing touch with the game is very vital during these tough times. I believe most first-class cricketers have been trying different methods of training at home to stay fit as we see them even challenging each other on social media.

One of the tougher things though to do during these times is cricket skill training for batting, bowling and fielding. Cricketers worldwide have come up with basic things like hitting a hanging ball on a sock or even a bit of spot bowling in your garden, but it’s hardly what a professional cricketer needs to keep up with the fast-moving game of cricket. For me personally it has been a much welcomed break, as it has given me time to think and reflect on my game as I have been going through a rough patch lately, but on the other hand players who were in good form might be gutted that they were forced into a lockdown with all cricket postponed indefinitely. 

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However, this period has made us think long and hard of what new things we can do and we’ve seen cricketers come up with various new activities like trying their hand at cooking, a bit of gardening and even grocery shopping for the cricketers who haven’t been used to doing it before. We have also seen a few positives during these lockdowns worldwide that include the decrease of air pollution, more freedom for wild animals in sanctuaries, people reaching out to help the poor while for me personally, spending more time with my parents has been very welcoming. 

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One other important aspect which has always been spoken about is the financial security of a Sri Lankan first-class cricketer. Most Sri Lankan first-class cricketers rely heavily on cricket to support their day-to-day financial needs. For a first-class cricketer like myself who is not contracted with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) it can be a very tricky period. Our main source of income would be our domestic club contracts and match payments from SLC which both have come to a standstill ever since the pandemic. Other than that our other source of income would be our UK club contracts which have also been postponed or cancelled like I mentioned earlier in my letter. 

SLC needs to make sure their first-class cricketers are protected if not I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few cricketers leaving the country in order to seek better opportunities elsewhere or look at other options such as coaching or other work whenever this pandemic ends. This will also result in the country losing more potential international cricketers while the debatable standard of the first-class structure may continue to drop. 

I believe whatever I shared on this letter applies to most first-class cricketers in Sri Lanka as I hope all of you continue to stay home and fight this deadly Coronavirus as one nation and hopefully we’ll be able to watch or play the game we love in the near future. 

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