Middlesex’s Tom Helm is anticipating a sense of celebration when county cricket returns next month.
The ECB has given the green light for an August 1 start, ending a hiatus of almost four months because of Covid-19 - the longest disruption to England’s leading summer sport since World War II.
Back then, the glorious summer of ‘47 saw Denis Compton make up for lost time by posting 3000 first-class runs with a flair which lifted the mood of the nation.
Seamer Helm expects a similar casting off of the shackles of the pandemic as players up and down the land renew their love for a game they sometimes take for granted.
“After what’s gone on the last few months, everyone will be blessed to be playing any cricket at all,” he said.
“I think there’ll be a lot of joy around because we’re getting back to doing what we love.
“The county season is long and there are moments in a normal summer where people have probably had enough of it.
“But I think the pandemic has made people realise just how good the game is and how much they’ve missed it.
“Players might be rusty to start with, but I think you’ll see a lot of carefree cricket and people really enjoying it rather than stressing about it too much.”
In a vote this week the first-class counties agreed to play both red and white-ball cricket this summer, a decision now awaiting ratification by the ECB.
Whatever the format, Helm will be hoping for a few ‘carefree’ shots from opposing batsmen, given bowlers face several big challenges because of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.
There’ll be new regulations regarding shining, or perhaps not shining the ball, plus the 26-year-old believes it may take a game or two for bowlers to truly ‘hit their straps'.
“The ball will definitely be affected if you can’t shine it and make it swing as it normally would in this country,” continued Helm.
“So, it may be more of a batsman’s game to begin with, but I don’t think that will last for long. I’m sure something will come about that everyone will be allowed to do, and which will mean the ball moves not too dissimilarly to normal.”
“Workloads may be a problem though for us bowlers as we’ve not done a lot.
“I don’t necessarily mean there will be a lack of stamina. I would imagine if you were to fitness test most of the boys now they would score pretty similarly to where they would normally. But to be bowling fit is something completely different from being able to run a 10k in sub-40 minutes.
“The skills are so different, and you can’t really replicate them by doing anything other than bowling.”
Helm has at least had a little longer to prepare than most after being called up to England’s white-ball training squad last month ahead of the Tests and ODIs against the West Indies.
Covid regulations meant it was anything but a normal call-up with the Marylebone resident doing most of his work away from other squad members, albeit under the watchful eye of long-time mentor and Middlesex coach Alan Coleman.
“I had a specific time I had to arrive and you couldn’t be too early,” he added.
“I’d bowl for half an hour with my own ball, which no-one else could touch, do some running, then get back in my car and go home.
“But it’s good to know I’m somewhere on England’s radar and hopefully I’ve put my hat in the ring with some sort of a chance.”
Interview conducted by Jon Batham of the ECB Reporters Network