Uncertainty surrounds the prospects of the Lions tour this summer. Nobody can be surprised. Everything is uncertain now. Every shopkeeper, publican, businessman and teacher knows this. The NHS fears being overwhelmed. Politicians make decisions they may be forced to reverse tomorrow, or next week, or the month after. Covid is biting hard and nobody knows when it will relax its grip. For the moment, however, professional sport is still being played, and quite right too, for this relief much thanks.
If sometimes one feels mildly and momentarily ashamed of checking the score from the Test match in Sydney first thing on waking, before turning to other news, one may nevertheless be justified in doing so. Sport helps to keep one sane, even while recognizing that one is behaving a bit like Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in the Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes – two old buffers obsessed with the prospects for a Test match and paying no heed to the sinister goings-on in the train hurtling across Europe.
Still, back to the Lions. The series in South Africa is set for midsummer. Nobody knows how things will be then. There is no reason for thinking matches could be played in normal fashion there at that point. Admittedly, Test cricket was played in New Zealand last week, is being played in Australia now and is due to be played in Sri Lanka and India in the weeks ahead. But still, circumstances aren’t normal. Players emerge from their protective bubble and play either behind closed doors or before limited crowds – which isn’t always so limited, 30,000 spectators were admitted to each day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, almost a third of the ground’s capacity.