Another year has finished, and as is tradition we need to look at the lessons that we have learned throughout the last 365 days. So here are the eight things that cricket taught us in 2015.
World Cups are better with associates
The 2015 World Cup was won by Australia, but the real story was the involvement of those outside the “full member” club at the ICC. Ireland, Scotland, UAE and Afghanistan played at the tournament and gave us some of the best stories and some of the best matches. Ireland beating the West Indies was the current state of the Caribbean side writ large. The joy exhibited by Shapoor Zadran when he hit the winning runs against Scotland was the image of the World Cup.
The depressing thing is that this could be Afghanistan’s first World Cup as well as their last. The 10 team format, a tournament that will be three days longer and just one match shorter than the 14 team version, means that associates making it to the tournament is depressingly unlikely. We might have one non-Test playing nation in the World Cup in England in 2019, but it is just as likely that we will have none.
Freelance cricketers are now a thing
There has been talk of cricketers going “freelance” for a while, but it was really this year that it became widespread. Those who play the game at the highest level no longer need their national side to make a living. There are many West Indians who now play for anyone that will have them rather than their board, and this year Kevin Pietersen joined their ranks. With the disparity of income between the richest and the poorest boards, this will only become a more regular occurrence, and those that run the sport are the ones to blame. Their inability to create a manageable schedule and an equitable distribution of the money generated by the game has created a perfect storm that will lead to more great players abandoning international cricket.
We like talking about pitches
There hasn’t been a series that has gone by without an intense navel-gazing discussion about the surfaces on which cricket is played. They have been too flat, too green, too dry and too uneven. We even had Michael Clarke tweeting the way every pitch should behave. This is completely missing the point of cricket. It is the rich tapestry of conditions that makes the sport what it is. That one day 150 can be a winning total and the next that 400 can be not enough is what makes the sport such a wonderful spectacle. Who cares if a pitch turns from day one? Who cares if it seams all over the place? The game is about entertainment, not adhering to some pre-conceived formula.
Stuart Broad makes great faces
The first morning of the Trent Bridge Test will go down in Ashes history. Australia lost the toss and were asked to bat on a decent enough pitch. What followed was 18.3 overs of madness. Just completely bonkers cricket, as every ball that could find an edge found one, and every edge than could find a fielder did so. Australia were bundled out for 60, in effect ending their challenge for the series in just 94 minutes. Joe Root scored more than double the runs Australia did in their first innings by close of play on day one.
This innings gave us the image of the summer – Stuart Broad’s expression of total disbelief when Adam Voges edged the ball to Ben Stokes, who took an otherworldly catch, even had its own hashtag: #BroadFace.
The West Indies are mediocre
Back in April, in the lead up to the England series against West Indies, the newly elected ECB chairman, Colin Graves, referred to the side from the Caribbean as “mediocre”. He was called disrespectful at the time, and his comments were even credited for motivating the Windies to level the series 1-1. This was all a bit ridiculous. The West Indies beat England in that Test because they played better against an England side in transition. Mediocre means below average. As the West Indies were the 8th placed team out of 10 in the Test rankings, the comment was accurate. The West Indies are touring Australia and are being battered from pillar to post. They have failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy in England next year. They are not a good side. Graves was right.
Bangladesh are rising
While the West Indies plummeted, this year has seen the rise of Bangladesh as a force in the world game – primarily in ODIs. They are the team that will be at the Champions Trophy ahead of the West Indies. They made the World Cup quarter finals thanks to an excellent win against England. And they have done it on the back of seam bowling rather than the spinners that made up their attack for so long. Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed and Mashrafe Mortaza have created an attack that can win anywhere, and coach Chandika Hathurusingha has allowed them to find ways to win thanks to better understanding of game situations and their own strengths.
Kane really is King
The year has ended with Kane Williamson as the 2nd best Test batsman in the world. He has an average just under 50 and has cemented his place on the list of the most exciting players in world cricket. When we speak to our grandkids about the players that we saw become truly great Kane Williamson will be amongst those that we mention. None have more runs in all formats in 2015, few have looked more impressive.
We have seen quite a few players say goodbye to the international game in 2015, and some of those departures have really hurt. None more so than Kumar Sangakkara. The left-hander is all class, on and off the field. He was still scoring hundreds for fun on the international stage, but he decided he was ready to call it a day. Any retirement is, of course, the choice of the player concerned, but seeing Sangakkara score runs so easily in T20 cricket and for Surrey in the county championship makes you wish he had hung on for a bit longer. Maybe just another 10 or 15 years would have been fine.