BEST-LAID plans by local clubs for the Greater Manchester Cricket League campaign have been hit for six by the coronavirus outbreak.
If and when a shortened season gets underway, league officials have already declared there will be no promotion and relegation in 2020.
Suggestions have included having no league campaign but concentrating on cup competitions, notably the shortened T20 format.
And because of the financial impact of a disrupted campaign, many clubs would play without overseas players.
The 2020 season had seen the league revamped into a linear structure for the top four divisions – GMCL Premier, GMCL Premier League 2, Championship and Division One before it becomes regionalised lower down the pyramid. Previously it had been split from the second tier downwards.
Greenfield and newly promoted Moorside will this season grace GMCL Premier, Friarmere and Uppermill the Championship, Austerlands are in Division One while Saddleworth and Springhead are in Division 2B.
CAPTAIN Chris Gill was confident new-look Greenfield would have been well equipped to enjoy a successful season in GMCL Premier.
“When you look at our team, I am sure we would have had a good go and hopefully at the top end,” he said.
Greenfield enjoyed a successful first season in the top-flight in 2019 after winning promotion. They were second at the halfway stage only to falter as they slipped to eighth place.
The have recruited South African all-rounder Kagiso Rapulana as professional while Aussie Jason King, an opening batsman, was signed as the overseas player.
Rapulana, who has previously represented South Africa Emerging Players.
Returning to Greenfield are former players, batsman Ryan Fitton (Mottram) and all-rounders Jake Caudwell and Tom White (both Micklehurst).
Gill explained they will go into an abbreviated season without overseas players for financial reasons, especially as there will be no relegation.
“All our income is from over the bar and that has dried up so we have to be cautious. Luckily we are in a strong positional financially and have reserves,” he said.
FRUSTRATION seems an all-too familiar watchword at Moorside, newly promoted to GMCL Premier.
After missing out on promotion in 2018 by one place, Moorside finally reached the top-flight last summer.
But with no likelihood of a complete season, they will have to patiently wait for the 2021 campaign to test themselves against the county’s best.
“If we get on the field it will give the lads a taste and show us what we need for next season. We will use it as a learning curve to give us an insight,” explained captain Rick Harrington.
Moorside had signed South African all-rounder Aubrey Swanepoel, the former Crompton paid man, as their professional.
However, they have terminated Swanepoel’s contract for financial reasons with the club shut which has resulted in income drying up. The club has had to furlough three members of staff.
South African pace bowler Nimroe Lategan had been retained as overseas player.
Harrington admitted Moorside do not have the financial muscle to compete against the big hitters in GMCL Premier as they will essentially be fielding the side which won promotion.
He said: “We may not be star studded, but we are blessed with a few players who are good enough to play at the highest level.
“The only way to learn and adjust is to play at the highest level against the top players which is what we will do. It will be hard, but we will thrive on it.
“What we have, which others don’t, is we are a close-knit family and we are always behind each other.”
NEWLY promoted to the Championship, Friarmere had planned to go with effectively the same side which won promotion from Division 2B.
South African Adrian Du Toit, the scored more than 1,500 runs last season, was re-signed while overseas player Jamie King, an opening bowler from Barbados, was also retained.
The only new arrival has been talented teenager Nick Elliott-Whitehead, a left-arm spin bowler recruited from Woodhouses, though the club was in talks with another player at the time when the start to the season was aborted.
Club official Gary Kershaw said: “We planned to go with essentially the same side as last season which lost only one league game.
“The second team was unbeaten last season in the league and there are some good young lads capable of stepping up so we are well off for players.”
Kershaw added the club is debt free and in a strong position to weather the storm.
“We get mocked about our lack of resources, but it means we don’t have a lot of expenses,” he said.
CAPTAIN Mark Lees was confident Uppermill would have been better equipped than last season as they prepared for their Championship campaign.
The Leafields club, champions of Division 2B in 2018, found life challenging at a higher level in Division 1A as they finished in the lower reaches of the table.
“We had a good top five batsmen but after that tended to collapse,” explained Lees.
That has been addressed by the returns to the club of top-order batsman/wicketkeeper Michael Salmon and bowler/middle order batsman James Chamberlain.
“With those two additions, they will add to the backbone to the team.”
Pakistani all-rounder Ayaz Tasawar is back as professional for a third season with Lees describing him as a “great asset” to the club with both bat and ball.
Lees added the club was lucky to be able to hold several fundraising events before the closure and the proceeds will help club finances.
He said: “We should be able to get through this without it breaking us, but it will be a challenging winter which is our off season.
“We rely on local people using the clubhouse which is better than it ever has been after a revamp inside and a new roof.
“We received a £15,000 grant from Sport England for new nets and it is disappointing we have been unable to use them, but we will come back stronger.”
THERE is frustration at Thorpe Lane after relegated Austerlands were delighted with their recruitment for the 2020 campaign.
They were excited to have recruited Pakistani pair Imran Rafiq and Kashif Siddiqui as professional and overseas player.
Rafiq, previously pro at Bradford League club Townville, is a rising star having recently helped Pakistan Under-23s win the ACC Emerging Team Tournament when he scored 76 in the final against Bangladesh. He is a left-handed batsman and left arm spin bowler.
Siddique, a top-order batsman and leg spinner, is a former professional at Clitheroe where he had formidable statistics with both bat and ball.
“We were confident we had the best pro and overseas in the league and players who would standout in the Premier so it is disappointing and frustrating they will not be able to showcase their talents,” explained club official Andrew Young.
He added it is unlikely they would play for part of the season, though they have an option to sign Rafiq for a second season.
Neil Inkpen and Lee Milner have both retired with Austerlands’ target to bounce back following relegation from Division 1A after only one season in the second tier of the old structure.
THE reorganisation of the GMCL has left Saddleworth disappointed to be placed in the fifth tier.
Following an exodus of players, Saddleworth voluntarily dropped two divisions from 1B to 3E for the 2019 campaign after fearing they would struggle at a higher level and they needed time to rebuild.
However, they managed to strengthen the side and emerged runaway league champions.
Captain Steven Howard candidly said: “We are in a division which contains teams which were mid-table in our league last season which is disappointing and not ideal.
“We are still in a dreadful league, though it is a bit better than last year. And with no promotion this season we will still be in it for the 2021 season.”
Saddleworth hoped to re-engage Imran Aslam as professional. He was paid man when won the league, Tanner Cup and T20 in 2015, the last season of the Saddleworth League, and played several games as an amateur last summer while on holiday.
Off the field the club has had to furlough paid staff and lost income from fundraisers and hiring out the club.
“It is challenging for all clubs, but I am sure we will be fine,” said Howard.
SPRINGHEAD will play alongside Saddleworth and Micklehurst in Division 2B, the fifth tier of the GMCL.
Secretary Stuart Taberner believes the club in well equipped to withstand coronavirus.
“We spent £25,000 last year on the clubhouse and ground and still have money set aside which will get us through the next 12 to 18 months, something a lot of club don’t have,” he explained.
And on the field, there remains plenty of positives following last year’s merger with Rochdale Catholic Club.
“We have more than 40 players and should be challenging for promotion after finishing fourth last season in Division 3E,” Taberner continued.
He believes Springhead are probably at their right level explaining if they win promotion they would probably have to engage a professional at a higher level.
Taberner added: “We have picked up a couple of players from Stayley, who will probably be second team, but by and large it will be the same squad.
“We have two or three youngsters who we expect to be pushing for the first team.”
Springhead also have Danny Mulkeen jnr, the leading run scorer in Division 3E for each of the last two seasons, as a key player.