English cricket crosses the threshold into 2022 in a state of utter uncertainty. 2021 was a year the English game expected so much of and, on the men’s side at least, it fell very flat indeed.
Three Test wins in Asia by February 9 provided a start full of optimism, but from there little went right; defeat to India away, a Test summer containing just one win, then a torrid tour of Australia. Between times, the T20 side failed to win the World Cup, as a raft of injuries bit.
The Hundred happened, and was a qualified success; it further mangled the men’s summer schedule, but the women’s tournament was a triumph. ECB bods are working over time to ensure there is no second season syndrome.
Throw in the racism crisis, sparked by the bravery of Azeem Rafiq, and it really has been a memorable year for all the wrong reasons.
The upshot is that the CEO Tom Harrison, Director of Cricket Ashley Giles, Head Coach and Selector Chris Silverwood and Test captain Joe Root could all jump or be pushed from their jobs before the first month of the year is out. The ECB does not have a Chair in post right now, either.
But the show goes on. An England men’s team will play T20s in the Caribbean in January, then Tests there in March. In the summer, England play New Zealand, India and South Africa in seven Tests, plus the Netherlands, India and South Africa in white-ball cricket.
The winter? A T20 World Cup in Australia, tours to Pakistan for T20s then Tests, South Africa and Bangladesh for white-ball, plus New Zealand for red. Madness, the lot of it. If players, pulled from pillar to post during the pandemic, are not broken already – and some certainly are – they will be at the end of all that.
Fortunately, the women’s game should again provide something to love. Rather than endless contract-obligating drudge, the year starts with some high-end, top-class contests with the Ashes, then England’s defence of the ODI World Cup they won at home in 2017. That takes place in New Zealand, and shapes as an idyllic event that could serve as another massive leap forward for the women’s game.
There is also cricket’s inclusion in the 2022 Commonwealth Games to look forward to. England will be one of eight women’s teams at the T20 tournament, with all games being played at Edgbaston in late July and early August.
For the ECB, things are likely to get worse before they get better – on and off the field. The men’s Test team is at a low ebb, but not for lack of talent; there are plenty of able youngsters in England, many are just raking it in in T20 leagues, while others are not being given a chance by a county system the authorities have watered down horribly.
In 2022, another reckoning looms with the IPL, which has expanded, is having its final ever mega-auction (making it a very attractive time for players to get involved), but will clash in some way or another with the early season Tests.