In Luke Wood’s perfect world, the cricket season is under way, his new club Lancashire have already picked up a victory and the bowler has claimed some early wickets – but unfortunately the reality is very different.
There will be no professional cricket in England or Wales until 28 May at the earliest because of the coronavirus pandemic and Wood is in lockdown, alone in his Manchester home.
According to a recent YouGov poll, 20% of people in the United Kingdom are living alone during this period of extreme uncertainty and the 24-year-old, who left boyhood club Nottinghamshire in the off-season, is one of them.
“I’ve never really been one for enjoying my own company,” admits the Sheffield-born left-arm swing bowler, who grew up with his twin brother Daniel.
“Before moving to Manchester in January, I’d always lived with someone, so it’s been a lot different to what I’ve ever been used to before, particularly in these circumstances.
“It’s obviously strange because this time of year we should be starting our season, but I’m sitting at home not being able to do anything.
“Not being able to see anyone feels very weird.”
In a recent survey by the Office of National Statistics, 47% of people in the United Kingdom have reported high levels of anxiety while in lockdown.
Wood believes keeping busy is the key for his own mental wellbeing as he continues to adjust during this period.
“We have exercises to do at home and I’ve been doing my garden as best I can, so having a little project has helped,” says Wood.
“I’ve tried to be productive and got on with things that I’d usually put off doing.”
Everybody needs good neighbours
There have been many stories of communities across the country coming together during this pandemic and neighbours on Wood’s new-build estate just outside Worsley have been on hand to support him during this difficult period.
“They’ve been brilliant,” says Wood. “I’ve had people baking and dropping stuff at my door and then on Easter Sunday the neighbours, who know I’m on my own, brought me across a roast in the evening.
“It makes you feel like you’re not alone even if you’re living on your own. People are looking out for each other on my estate and that really helps in this situation.”
Technology has also been a major help for the bowler and he has been in regular contact with his former Nottinghamshire team-mates as well as his new Lancashire cohort via FaceTime and WhatsApp group chats.
Wood believes he’s also becoming closer to his immediate family.
“I wouldn’t see them that much anyway, particularly during the season, but I’ve probably spoken to my brother and my family more than I ever have,” he said.
“It’s nice to speak to them a bit more so that’s a positive thing that has come out of this.
“I’m constantly getting the reassurance that people are looking out for me – friends, family, team-mates, neighbours. That’s been really good for my mental health in a time like this.”
Last summer, after more than a decade with Nottinghamshire, Wood rejected a new contract in favour of a three-year deal with Lancashire.
“I’ve moved away from what I’ve always known but it’s an exciting challenge that I was looking forward to, so being unable to start is frustrating,” says Wood.
“I had a good run towards the end of 2019 with Notts and when it’s safe to do so I want to carry on that form with my new club and show people it was a good choice for the club to sign me.”
Despite leaving Notts, Wood is due to still play regular cricket at Trent Bridge if the inaugural Hundred goes ahead, after Nottinghamshire-based franchise Trent Rockets drafted the swing bowler for £50,000.
“It was horrendous watching the draft on the night to see if I would be picked,” says Wood.
“I had no idea that Trent Rockets would sign me. I wasn’t expecting that to happen and it was a bit of a surprise to get picked up, but it was brilliant.”
Whenever the cricket season does begin there is one thing that Wood thinks might need attention before he bowls his first competitive ball of the season.
“My trim is awful at the moment – there is not a fade in sight – I think I’ll be straight to the barbers once it’s safe and this lockdown is over,” he said.