In the Covid-19-enforced new normal, cricket tours have taken on a different complexion.
Where before touring parties would be sleek groups of 16 or 17, with the option of flying in a backup player should someone crack a finger available, now they are bloated 30-plus strong contingents, with every base covered and eventuality accounted for.
Doubled up with the need to stay permanently located in-bubble, the tradition of playing tour matches against various cobbled together XIs has had to be put aside for the moment, which means that plenty of players will travel very far for a very long time to do not very much, thus having difficult tours.
Here are seven players who have been left twiddling their thumbs more than most.
Mark Wood (England tour of South Africa)
With the ODI portion of England’s tour of South Africa cancelled, Mark Wood, more than most, can think himself unlucky not to have played for his country so far this winter.
The 30-year-old was almost certain to feature for Eoin Morgan’s 50-over side, given the early departures of Jofra Archer, Sam Curran and Ben Stokes from the bio-secure bubble, while plenty questioned his exclusion from England’s team for all three T20Is, given he has been a key component of the white-ball set-up in recent times.
Instead, England opted to stick with a seam attack comprising of Stokes, Archer, the Curran brothers and Chris Jordan for all three games, meaning Wood’s frustration from the summer, when he played only the first of six Tests, continued.
Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Lewis Gregory, Liam Livingstone, Joe Root, Reece Topley, Olly Stone and Chris Woakes were the others in England’s squads to face South Africa not to feature.
Chris Lynn (Mumbai Indians, IPL 2020)
The sight of Chris Lynn stationed on the boundary rope carrying drinks became a strangely familiar one during this year’s IPL.
For years, Lynn has thwarted bowlers from across the world, earning a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting T20 batsmen on the planet. Last year’s IPL wasn’t his strongest, but the Australian international still hit 405 runs in 13 innings, at an average of over 30.
That led to him being drafted by reigning champions Mumbai Indians for 2020, but the 30-year-old was restricted to the bench for the entirety of the tournament.
An opportunity presented itself when captain Rohit Sharma suffered a hamstring injury during the second half of the tournament, but the franchise kept faith with its existing overseas options in the team and instead promoted the impressive Ishan Kishan to open the batting.
Riley Meredith (Australia tour of England)
Riley Meredith has long been regarded as a huge prospect for Australia’s white-ball sides, but it was a difficult summer for the 24-year-old quick.
His impressive returns for Hobart Hurricanes in last year’s Big Bash League – where he took 10 wickets from six games at an average of 13.10 – helped to earn Meredith a maiden call-up for Australia’s tour of England, alongside uncapped players Josh Philippe and Daniel Sams.
As it turned out, none of that trio took part in the T20 or ODI sections of the tour, with their appearances restricted to warm-up matches. Meredith only bowled in two of his three appearances, though he did at least take the scalps of Marcus Stoinis and Steve Smith for his troubles.
His struggle was compounded by what followed. Whilst Philippe and Sams both travelled to the IPL, where they featured in varying degrees of prominence for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals respectively, Meredith had to wait for the resumption of the Sheffield Shield last month for a return to action.
Carlos Brathwaite (Peshawar Zalmi, PSL 2020)
The Pakistan Super League returned last month to complete its playoff rounds, with the closing stages of the tournament having been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This meant players had to travel and bubble up all to potentially play in just one or two matches before flying out again.
Carlos Brathwaite is perhaps the player who can consider his trip most forlorn. He featured in just one match against Lahore Qalandars, recording figures of 0-20 from two overs after adding an eight-ball 10 with the bat. Peshawar Zalmi were defeated by five wickets and thus were eliminated from the competition.
Jasdeep Singh (Guyana Amazon Warriors, CPL 2020)
Cricket in the USA received a boost when both Ali Khan and Jasdeep Singh were awarded ICC Americas contracts for the 2020 Caribbean Premier League.
Khan impressed at Trinbago Knight Riders, taking eight wickets from eight games at an average of 18.75. He then sealed an IPL contract with Kolkata Knight Riders as an injury replacement for Harry Gurney.
Singh, however, was slightly less fortunate during the CPL. The 27-year-old all-rounder failed to make an appearance for Guyana Amazon Warriors, who were eventually defeated at the semi-final stage.
Hayden Walsh (West Indies tour of New Zealand)
Hayden Walsh was put in the unusual position picked for a T20I and not batting or bowling.
That was due to the weather in Mount Maunganui, which caused the third game of West Indies’ series against New Zealand to be abandoned with the tourists on 25-1.
It caused an early end to what could have been a promising day for the 27-year-old batsman, whose handy leg-breaks may have also featured. It also spelled an end to his tour as far as the senior Windies team was concerned, having not been selected for the Test squad.
Walsh was, however, able to feature for West Indies A against New Zealand A three days later, but struggled with the bat, scoring 8 and 1. He fared a little better with the ball, taking 3-108.
Team-mate Romario Shepherd was in the same position as Walsh, having been selected for the third T20I but left unable to bat or bowl. He took that frustration out on the New Zealand A attack, plundering 133 off 154 balls batting at No.9 in the first innings.
Natthakan Chantham (Trailblazers, Women’s T20 Challenge)
To end on a positive note, the story of a player who received only limited opportunity, but maximised them to the fullest nonetheless.
One of the main comments following this year’s Women’s T20 Challenge, which was held during the latter stages of the men’s IPL in Dubai, was how short the tournament was; With three teams involved, the tournament compromised of just two group matches per team and a final.
That put several players in a perilous position in terms of how much they were able to show off their talents. One such player was Thailand international Natthakan Chantham, who featured for the Trailblazers alongside the likes of Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Ecclestone and Deandra Dottin.
But despite an impressive record with the bat – she averages 22.77 with the bat over 38 T20Is – Chantham’s experience was limited to facing just the last ball of the innings in the final, batting at number nine. She was run out with her side chasing a quick single.
She was far from done, however. The 24-year-old went viral with her fielding ability, earning praise from Brendon McCullum among plenty of others. Chasing after a powerful drive from Jemimah Rodrigues, she was able to acrobatically dive forward and scoop the ball away from the boundary without touching the rope. Astounding stuff.