Now that the World Cup is done and dusted, what comes next? While many English cricket fans have been speculating about the future of the game in the coming years – with a possible World Test Championship looming as well – players have simply been trying to make it through another season after getting their collective heads knocked off by accusations of match-fixing.
After all, a period of soul-searching and reorganization is in order after such a major failure. So how has the game changed since we lost to New Zealand by two runs at Eden Park back in March? Let’s take an overview of some of the key moments that have shaken up the game since then.
The Big Four shake up
In a shock move, the MCG stage was traded out for Old Trafford as the venue for the deciding three-match series in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The Big Four failed to produce a series that was close, and Australia put themselves in position to retain their title with a comprehensive victory in the final match at Adelaide Oval. While the World Cup campaign was disappointing for many, the return series in New Zealand was crucial for the English.
They would face a team with the experience of playing in a World Cup, and so would be expected to show greater consistency than in the early stages. In the end, though, New Zealand proved just as hard to beat as in the previous two tours of England, and the tourists finally lost a series by losing the final ODI. It was a promising sign for English cricket in the future, but such was the level of upheaval that events at the top of the game would soon have a momentous impact.
ICC revamps the game
For years, the ICC’s headquarters in Dubai had been a byword for waste, extravagance, and needless red tape. As the 2022 World Cup got closer, however, it became clear that the ICC was trying to put its house in order. A middle-management shake-up helped make way for a new approach that would see the tournament become more of a global event, with all the associated benefits.
The ICC also looked at making changes to the format of the game, and so a new ODI World Cup format was introduced. The idea was to reduce the number of matches between the top teams, with the final being played as a match for the championship rather than to break up the tournament. The World Cup was also changed to make it more of a global event, and the new format was also tweaked to reduce the number of matches between the top teams.
Scandals rock the game
It would be easy to try to draw a straight line from the struggles of the English team in the World Cup to the game’s problems with corruption. Indeed, the two are intertwined. The fall of the Rajasthan Royals was a shocking demonstration of how a promising team can be brought low by the actions of one or a few individuals. The scandal was a shock to the system, and while it is too early to say what impact it will have on the game, the BCCI’s plans to combat it were promising.
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A significant step forward came at the start of the 2017-18 season when the ICC implemented a zero-tolerance policy toward any form of corruption in the game. The move followed an overhaul of the anti-corruption code that was also unveiled in Dubai. This new code signaled a significant change in the way cricket is governed, with global governing bodies now set to have a much greater say in the game than ever before.
The season that followed the World Cup was one full of shocks. The IPL saw a number of teams either struggling or continue to struggle, with the likes of Rajasthan, Kings XI Punjab, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore all struggling in some way. Things took a turn for the worse, though, when the Chennai Super Kings were barred from participating in the season’s final. The CSK were part of the IPL’s most successful team, having won the title in 2014, but their involvement in the betting scandal was enough for the BCCI to effectively ban them from the rest of the league. The controversy around the betting has shaken the entire league, and the rules around how teams can sign players have been changed. Players will now be bound by the same rules as in domestic cricket, and the BCCI has also hinted at a possible shake-up of the IPL’s financial model.
Women’s cricket changes gears
All of this, however, has been somewhat overshadowed by the story of the women’s game in recent years. The first World Cup in 2011 was a resounding success, and the 2015 World Cup in Australia saw an even higher standard of play. There were also a number of landmark events that helped demonstrate the strength of the women’s game as well.
The Women’s Ashes was the feature event in Australian cricket in early 2017, and that was followed by an unprecedented event in India: Twenty20 World Cup matches played by women’s teams. The tournament featured six teams – India, Australia, New Zealand, England, West Indies, and Sri Lanka and was an indication of the direction in which the women’s game is moving.
Future of the game?
As mentioned above, the future of cricket is clearly in the hands of the players, with the men’s game facing up to the issues of playing schedules, the need for reintegration for fallen players, and a new focus on grassroots cricket. The women’s game, on the other hand, is clearly in a very strong position. As for the general health of the game, the Future Tours Program for next season includes a number of significant tours, including India and Sri Lanka, and the West Indies.
The Ashes tour is also set to go ahead, while the Australia v South Africa Test series could also turn out to be a series of note. That, though, is not to say that there are not significant challenges ahead for the game. On the contrary, the major challenges facing the game are clear: finding a way to bring in a greater income, coping with the issues of player reintegration, and ensuring that the future of the game is in the hands of the players and not the governing bodies.
It is a cliché to say that cricket is a game of series, but it is also true. The game is not a one-off event, and great series are the hallmark of the game. The World Cup was one such series and was filled with dramatic contests. New Zealand and England were the two teams that dominated the competitions, and both also went on to reach the final stages of the World Test Championship.
The final, however, was a dramatic game that saw the Black Caps end their wait for a World Cup victory by triumphing over their English opponents. All in all, it was a memorable World Cup, and hopefully the game will be able to build on the success of the event in the coming years.