2014 was, by any standard applicable, a tumultuous and drama-filled year for English cricket. From the Kevin Pietersen saga which rumbled on throughout the year, through an English summer which resembled a rollercoaster ride for the long-suffering fans, all the way to the eventual dismissal of Alastair Cook as the ODI captain – controversy and dispute have never been too far away.
After plenty of examples in the last year or so of players complaining of mental fatigue and burnout due to the ridiculous demands of the playing schedule, England’s itinerary next year looks fairly ominous. After the World Cup in February/March, they play a Test series in the West Indies in April, before coming back to England in early May. This gives them little time to prepare for their first home series of the summer, against New Zealand, later that month. After this comes a quick few weeks break in June, before another instalment of crickets oldest and fiercest rivalry; the Ashes. As usual, the urn will be contested over 5 gruelling Tests, designed to examine not only the skill level but also the mental strength and physical condition of the teams. After a lengthy one-day series which follows the main event, the team will finally get some rest for a month or so. However, this will not last long as over December they have the simple task of taking on South Africa (the best Test team in the world), in South Africa.
But before all of that, there is of course the small matter of a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, a tournament that England will now enter with a captain who will have only been in charge for somewhat less than 2 months, a team that seems to constantly perform as less than the sum of it’s collective parts, and a coach who has a very poor record in limited overs cricket. However, there were small signs in the recent series in Sri Lanka, even though England were in the end comfortably beaten 5-2, that several positives were emerging. The form of several young batsmen such as Moeen Ali, James Taylor and in particular Joe Root, was distinctly encouraging, as was the spin bowling.
The pace bowling on the other hand was quite disappointing, meaning that if James Anderson and Stuart Broad fail to recover from long-standing injuries in time for the tournament, then England have a real problem.
With Alastair Cook finally (and rightly, in my opinion), paying the price for his consistently poor performances, England now have Eoin Morgan, a much more adventurous, free-thinking captain, in charge, for what is a massive tournament for this developing side. Whether the team can match his aggressive attitude and use it to progress in the World Cup is yet to be seen.
Image courtesy of express.co.uk