CLUBS will face a number of challenges if competitive cricket returns this summer, says the chief of one of Oxfordshire’s top sides.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has released its five-step roadmap for the recreational game, with the ultimate goal of playing unrestricted fixtures.

The sport in England is currently at step three, which allows for socially-distanced training sessions of up to six people, with the next stage progressing to adapted matches when the government guidelines allow.

This could still be some weeks away and Martin Phillips, chairman of Home Counties Premier League Division 1 side Banbury, believes it will be a difficult balancing act.

He said: “There has got to be an appetite from the players for a shortened, adjusted game.

“If you’ve got to turn up in your whites, play a game where the rules have been changed and go straight home afterwards that’s not why a lot of people play cricket.

“The ECB have a lot of boxes to tick, but there’s got to be an appetite and that’s a mixed bag.”

Banbury captain Lloyd Sabin revealed some of his teammates were still undecided about returning to competitive action.

He added: “A few players might just want to knock the season on the head if we’re only going to be playing a few shortened games later in the year.”

Step four of the roadmap would see adult and youth matches ‘adjusted’ to ensure social distancing remains.

Other ideas include playing shorter formats to allow more matches to take place and extending the season into September.

But at a time when clubs across many sports are feeling the pinch, Phillips revealed this is a double-edged sword.

He said: “Our income has dried up, but so has most of our expenditure.

“If there’s no cricket financially we’re fine, but if it starts again we’ll start eating into our resources.

“I’m sure that’s true of all cricket clubs at our level.”

The ECB says it wants to play its part in ‘helping to get people active – particularly children’, but Phillips is unconvinced that youth matches will restart anytime soon.

He said: “Youth coaches in Oxfordshire are volunteers.

“I’m not sure you can ask a dad to take charge of 11 to 15 kids – how many are going to want to do it?

“I think we’re still a long way to getting back to kids playing cricket.”

Phillips is also chair of the Home Counties Premier League, which includes a host of Oxfordshire clubs and reports directly to the ECB.

He said the league has worked up ‘a few scenarios’ for when the picture becomes clearer in the coming weeks, but will wait for direction from the sport’s bosses.

In the meantime, several clubs have allowed members to book nets sessions since rules were relaxed last month.

Bicester & North Oxford have already implemented two-person and one-to-one training and started holding two sessions of up to six members running parallel to each other this week.

This will be extended to their youth set-up from June 24 and head coach Gary Sansome revealed the club has benefitted from being proactive.

He said: “There are complexities that need to be resolved and you can work around that when practising in the nets.”

Similar sessions at Witney Mills have also proved popular and first XI captain Mike Dove feels players are desperate to return to action.

He said: “We know matches are on the horizon, but at the moment training is as good as getting a game on.”