England players are back in training as cricket eyes a return to action. Betfair ambassador Graeme Swann talks shaking off the rust, why Jimmy Anderson will be grumpy and playing behind closed doors.
"Fifty-over cricket will not be around for ever but Test cricket will endure. The Test format is the one that we want to get to number in the world in."
I doubt if any of the England lads will be that rusty. Of course they will be missing match practice and time in the middle, which helps you pick up the rhythm of the game, but as a player these days, you don't get much time off, even at county level.
Full speed only a few sessions away
Under normal circumstances, the guys who are playing for England very rarely go for two or three weeks without having a net. And even under lockdown, they will have been finding ways to train. If you're Ben Stokes, you can go to Durham Riverside on your own and bowl in the nets for an hour, or you can get some time on the bowling machine. There will be no lack of fitness either because they've all got access to gyms or gym equipment, so they should be ready to go.
But I've said it before that at the beginning of a normal season some people just go off like a rocket and absolutely kill it despite no match practice. Others are slow starters just by nature, so it will be interesting to see which players are quickest out of the blocks.
It would not surprise me if Jimmy Anderson is taking wickets very quickly. The extended break is probably not ideal for him because he's the type of guy who just needs to bowl and bowl. But I just think he will be hungrier than the rest because he's grumpy at the best of times and now he's been locked up for two month, he'll just be desperate to sledge batsmen again!
Mental attitude the answer to a fast start
I had a habit of taking wickets in the first over of a spell, and I genuinely believe it's to do with what was going on in my head. There is often a general malaise when people start things new because they go in with trepidation and cautiousness and that's why they don't perform well or are slow starters.
But your body doesn't forget how to do it. That muscle memory is so strong that you just have to trust in that. I used to just think: "I've done all the practice and I just need to fall straight back into the rhythm." As soon as you start concentrating on getting the batsman out rather than your action, you're on top.
There might be a bit of soreness as the intensity levels are stepped up. It tends not to be the first day back but the second or third when your muscles can feel a bit stiff because you've been sitting on the sofa watching too much Star Trek over the break. Five days of hard physical endurance can shock the system a bit, especially for the quicker bowlers.
Stokes and Archer in Test side but Buttler in ODIs for separate squads
If England have to start picking two different squads for Tests and one-dayers, it will mean choosing one format for several players who would otherwise have played both.
Ben Stokes would be in my Test team, in a heartbeat. Anyone who puts ODI cricket ahead of Test cricket is looking at it all wrong. In my view, 50-over cricket will not be around forever but Test cricket will endure. The Test format is the one that we want to get to number one in the world in, which is what we achieved in ODIs by winning the World Cup. Just think of Headingley last year. That performance ends the argument. I'd put Jofra Archer in the Test side over the ODIs too, as long as he was captained properly and asked to bowl a couple of short spells at 95 miles an hour each day.
I'd have Jos Buttler, someone else who has played both formats, in the one-day team. Jos has done a decent job when he has played in the Test side but he's not the same cricketer in the red-ball game. They're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. He's the most dynamic and explosive one-day cricketer in the world - and he can do it in Test cricket, but he's a lower middle-order batsmen in that format. In ODIs, he's world-class.
Fake crowds would be a laughing stock
I saw Jofra suggesting piping fake crowd noise into the grounds to make up for the absence of fans. It just reminds me of those terrible sit-coms where they have canned laughter and it only makes them laughably bad. I'm just imagining the bloke in charge of the sound system not quite understanding the brief and playing out a football crowd, complete with sweary songs about the umpire and "he fell over" chants!
They might have to do that for the national anthems though because none of them can sing. I used to stand next to Alastair Cook, who was a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral, but now cannot hit a single note. It's just about the only thing he's bad at.
For more exclusive insight from Graeme check out our Cricket...Only Bettor Lockdown Lowdown podcast, where our man was in conversation with Ed Hawkins on career highs and lows. A must listen.