Luke Wells considers himself lucky for playing cricket earlier this year
The irony is not lost on Luke Wells when it’s suggested that he’s one of the lucky cricketers who have actually played this year.
The Sussex batsman had a productive few months at the start of 2020 in Australia playing for Casey-South Melbourne including an innings of 290 which was close to breaking a record that has stood since 1927.
He returned to the county at the beginning of March and then headed off to Cape Town for Sussex’s pre-season tour, just as the coronavirus crisis was starting to develop.
“When we left it was beginning to get serious but none of us imagined how it would all escalate so quickly,” he said.
“We had some really good middle practice for a few days but every time we picked up our phones the news at home was getting worse. We played one day of a two-day practice match but by the end of the first day we were all wondering ‘what are we doing here?’”
The tour was aborted but because of a shortage of available flights the squad could not return home together. Wells was eventually reunited with his partner Marion, who had been visiting her family in France, and their two-year-old son, back in Sussex.
Wells hasn’t picked up a bat for six weeks and tries to keep fit at home.
“We got some gym equipment from the club before the lockdown and we’re ticking over fitness-wise,” he said.
“The boys do a pub quiz on Zoom every week and we’re in touch but it is a very strange time.”
No one at Sussex was looking forward to the season more than the 29-year-old.
After a couple of lean years with the bat he returned to South Melbourne for the second winter in a row and made three centuries in grade cricket, inluding a monumental 290 which was only five runs short of Bill Ponsford’s Melbourne district record.
He also had a session with the highly regarded Australian coach Trent Woodhill, who has worked with Sussex team-mate Luke Wright among others in the past.
“Trent had noticed a couple of technical things which we worked on but the session was just a lot of fun and afterwards it was the best I had felt for a long time - back to my best,” said Wells.
“Trent looks at batting in an interesting way. It’s still technical but different. For instance, he is very good on the stability of your feet to generate the power you need for your shots. When I made that 290 (33 fours, 14 sixes) I played some shots I was very proud of.”
Now, like the rest of his team-mates, Wells, who is out of contract at the end of the season, plays a waiting game.
There will be no cricket at all until July 1 and the ECB are committed to prioritising international and Vitality Blast matches if the season does resume.
A red-ball specialist like Wells must hope that some first-class fixtures can be fitted in, even if the County Championship itself does not take place.
“I’m pretty realistic about the situation,” he said. “Obviously like all professional cricketers I hope we can play this season but at the moment cricket is not the priority when the effects of the virus are still being felt as badly as they are.”