While international cricket is set to return on 8 July with the start of a three-match Test series between the West Indies and England, top England bowlers have raised concerns of the effect of not having a crowd to support them at the ground.
In an interview with the BBC, Stuart Broad explained his concerns of playing a test match without the support of the England crowd, saying that: “I’ve spoken to our sports psychologist about creating a mindset where I can get my emotions up.”
The ‘Barmy Army’, a prominent supporter’s group, attend every match possible, both home and away. They are famous for making up songs for each player, both for those on the England team and for a select few on the opposing sides.
The crowd would erupt with each boundary that Ben Stokes hit at Headingly
The Barmy Army have almost a symbiotic relationship with England players, spells of brilliant bowling are accompanied with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ with each ball. Each standout moment in recent English Test cricket has always relied on the enthusiasm of the Barmy Army.
The crowd would erupt with each boundary that Ben Stokes hit during his legendary second innings at Headingly. Flintoff’s 2005 over to Ponting, famed to be one of the best ever bowled, was fuelled by the cheers of the crowd.
There are certain scenarios that bring the worst out of me as a cricketer
– Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad, also known for his dangerous spells of bowling during top-level Test matches, certainly feels that the lack of the crowd is going to be detrimental to England. He commented: “I thrive off the energy of something happening in the game or a bit of excitement, or with a big battle going on.”
“I also know that there are certain scenarios that bring the worst out of me as a cricketer, and that is when feel the game is just floating along and there is nothing on it.”
Fellow England bowler Mark Wood described the bio-secure environment that the England team have been training in as “a bit like a sci-fi movie”, but did admit that “we all know that we are lucky to be here and we have all been looking forward to the chance to play cricket again”.
The new environment that both teams face has made intra-squad warm-up games far more important as they can emulate the eerie quiet that the matches are set to be played in. Moreover, the drought in live cricket that Covid-19 has caused has also meant that these matches, usually only worth a brief mention in pre-series team evaluations, have been streamed and watched by thousands.
Both sides are certainly going to need to adapt to the new conditions
While being detrimental towards England, it certainly has not released the pressure on the West Indies. Head coach Phil Simmons warned that his side must not have the “bating debacles” that it suffered intermittently during their previous tour of England.
Simmons, like Broad, also emphasized the importance of being “mentally ready” for the Test series. Whether the cheers are against them or for them, both sides are certainly going to need to adapt to the new conditions.
Starting from Wednesday, the eyes of the cricketing world will descend on the Ageas Bowl as the two sides begin their three-match battle, marking the start of a rather disjointed English cricket season.