Stephen Outerbridge breaks ranks: ‛this is anti-cricket’
Senior Somerset batsman Stephen Outerbridge has broken ranks from the champions by suggesting everything should be done to see that Cup Match is played this year.
Outerbrldge says talk has been circulating among some members of the Somerset team that they are not keen to play, apparently over safety concerns with Covid-19 and also because of the late start of the season, which has been supported by the statement put out by the club yesterday in officially withdrawing from the Annual Classic.
“I wouldn’t say it is all the players; you have some who may want to play and some who don’t,” said the 38-year-old who made his Cup Match debut in 2004.
“I’ve heard different things. I didn’t go to the meeting as I also have my meetings with Bailey’s Bay. From what I’m hearing when it comes to Somerset and that decision, it is really disturbing. It really bothers me.”
Outerbridge says it is unthinkable not to have Cup Match for a second straight year, especially with protocols in place after the Covid-19 pandemic. Just two days ago the Premier announced that more restrictions will end this weekend.
Outerbridge is uncertain how much cricket he will be able to play this season because of his role as president of Bailey’s Bay who are set to host the Eastern Counties Cup series this year. He admits he might have played his final Cup Match if this year’s event is scrapped.
“As a player who has been involved in Somerset’s set-up, it’s always been about high performance and backing yourself against adversity,” he said.
“But now adversity is up against us, we haven’t had match preparation, we know the negative impact the pandemic has had on everybody, so now is the time to show your real character.
“Six weeks to prepare for a cricket match? We know the league is going to start in less than two weeks, you’ll get a decent amount of games, no matter that it is Twenty20, you’re still playing cricket. So that argument about match preparation, for me is null and void, because I think we have more than enough time.”
Outerbridge feels precautions would have been in place to keep everybody safe during the two days of Cup Match. “With health and safety, we know the procedures and protocols and from what I’ve been hearing, all that has been set in place and is laid out,” he stated.
“Obviously we have the debate about vaccinated and non-vaccinated but that is a whole different conversation. We know what to expect in that regard.
“Yes, we have levels of restrictions, but we all know why. People have lost loved ones because of the coronavirus so you have to have some level of restrictions to manage that risk. I know somebody real close to me who lost their father; it’s hard and we know why there are restrictions.
“The excuses being given for this game not to be played can never outweigh the reasons why we are playing this game. I’m a cricketer, an enthusiast when it comes to cricket, and right now it just seems that there are a lot of different behaviours that are anti-cricket.”
Outerbridge added: “There is no way our national teams will get better with these philosophies. That’s why we play sport, so we can have national pride and things like that.
“I just know that Somerset are champions, portrayed to be champions and now is the time to really show their character. If what is being said is true, I just can’t agree to it.
“Somerset have given me a level of confidence, not just in cricket but in life. Coming to this decision when their backs are up against the wall is when I really want to see their character, and it is not showing.
“I honestly hope there is an emergency meeting somewhere to really weigh up the pros and cons. I haven’t come across anything to stop a cricket match from being played.
“The cricket season will start next week. Will Somerset and St George’s still play in the Twenty20 league? If so, why, and why not play Cup Match?”
Outerbridge and his members at Bailey’s Bay are preparing for county cup, although with only four weeks to go, the build-up isn’t like it was pre-Covid.
“It’s the same conversation; if the league has started then the Eastern Counties has to go ahead,” Outerbridge said.
“At the end of the day, Cup Match is bigger than me and people making these decisions. What happens next year when you go to sponsors saying you want sponsorship money?
“I just hope that the powers that be are able to come to a better decision, if this is the decision they are making.”