White looking forward to Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl ‘coming alive again’ in 2021

Giles White is looking forward to The Ageas Bowl ‘coming alive again’ in 2021.

Sunday, 24th January 2021, 12:27 pm
Hampshire's director of cricket Giles White. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images.

Like the other 17 first class counties, Hampshire had to play all their home games last summer behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

They were affected by coronavirus more than most; because their home ground was being used to stage England games, Hampshire’s two ‘home’ matches in the Bob Willis Trophy were played at Arundel in Sussex.

In a normal year, Hampshire’s players would be ramping up their pre-season training with February on the horizon. Sadly, as we all know, nothing is ‘normal’ any more and the players are currently training in small groups.

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‘It’s been very tough for everyone, we’ve had to get used to doing things differently, White, the county's director of cricket, explained.

‘Normally by now we’d be in full flow in pre-season training after starting in November.

‘Instead, we’re in small bubbles, separate changing rooms, there’s a one-way system around the pavilion, masks, social distancing.

‘Normally we’d be looking to go abroad in March, but that’s not happening either.’

White continued: ‘We’re working in small bubbles of four and five. We’re trying to get a balance so there’s a couple of batsmen, a seamer and a spinner.

‘There’s no crossing over between the bubbles, though the coaching staff can cross over.

‘We’re training Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesdays off.’

The Ageas Bowl during any January would be relatively quiet; during a pandemic it’s even quieter than usual.

‘There’s obviously a different feel about it because there’s hardly anyone around the ground apart from the coaches and players,’ said White.

‘I’m so looking forward to having spectators back and the place coming alive again, that will be great.

‘There’s guidelines to follow but we’re always talking to the club doctor and reviewing it every week.

‘Everything’s well drilled and we haven’t had any (positive) cases so far, so that’s great.

‘We’ll carry on training in small groups for a while longer.’

Neil Snowball, the ECB’s managing director of county cricket, said before Christmas that he was ‘working hard with all 18 first-class counties to ensure that we are able to welcome the return of crowds safely next year.’

Since then, a third nationwide lockdown has been enforced and at present all ‘elite’ sports games in England are taking place behind closed doors.

But by the time Hampshire travel to Leicestershire for their competitive season opener, the landscape could easily have changed as the vaccination programme is continued to be rolled out.

Prior to facing Leicestershire, Hampshire are hoping to organise friendlies with Northants and Sussex.