Which stars are on the wane?
Nine defeats would suggest the Test team is on the wane but we knew that at the start of 2021 (or since 2017). Covid only complicated life for a side that had been struggling for two years to make decent totals and challenge against the best teams.
Joe Root’s returns will inevitably decline after his record-breaking year and surely Jimmy Anderson will not continue his high standards but there is mounting evidence that it could actually be the white ball side that provides the major worry for 2022.
We know the Test team will go through a rebuilding phase and results will continue to be underwhelming for a while yet. But Eoin Morgan’s side are showing signs that regeneration needs to happen. Morgan himself is now 35, and determined to carry on to the Twenty20 World Cup in November. It is an aging team, and the white-ball game does not stand still.
Jos Buttler should be installed as 50-over captain and allowed to plan for the 2023 World Cup in India. There is no point in Morgan hanging on in that format. Nine of the 11 that lost to New Zealand in the Twenty20 World Cup semi-final were aged over 30. Jason Roy is 31 and regularly has hamstring or back issues, and missed the semi-final. There is a lot of white-ball talent in England. Time to give some others a chance.
Which stars are on the rise?
The Ashes series may have sparked an existential crisis around English red-ball cricket but there is plenty of talent in the counties waiting for its chance. Don’t buy the line that young players only want to be T20 stars; plenty want a piece of Ashes action.
Saqib Mahmood will surely earn a Test cap in the Caribbean in March, Liam Livingstone should have been in Australia. Disregard his county championship batting average last summer because the England white-ball team came calling, then the Hundred. He can bat at six, bowl off spin, leg spin, field well and has the strength of character needed at Test level.
Rob Yates at Warwickshire looks like an opener with a good temperament and classic technique but will need to cope with his second-season challenge. Josh Bohannon is a tough middle order player for Lancashire, who averaged 53 in the championship and 43 overall in first-class cricket.
Time England started picking players with good records in county championship cricket than gambling on unearthing the next Vaughan or Trescothick. What England really need is a gun spinner. That is harder to predict.
Hottest ticket of 2022
The rescheduled fifth Test against India at Edgbaston (shifted from Emirates Old Trafford) will be an experiment in how quickly a team can make itself ready for Test cricket with no preparation. India are in England for a white-ball series but the Test that was delayed at the last minute in 2021 because of a Covid outbreak had to be squeezed in otherwise the ECB would be about £30m down.
India are 2-1 ahead and have not won a Test series in England since 2006. England will be in transition after the Ashes and must avoid the temptation of producing a greentop to win and level the series. This Test team needs rebuilding, and learning how to win in tough conditions. Luckily at Edgbaston the pitches are pretty good, so it should be an even contest.
Can England cope with Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Ravi Ashwin? And what would levelling the series mean for Root, assuming he is still captain? Does it have any value beyond saving a few quid? At least England should be ready after a three-Test series against New Zealand first. India will arrive, play the Test then a white-ball series. There will be World Test Championship points on the line which will have far more meaning to India than England, who can only dream of reaching the final.
The sport’s looming crisis
Leadership. Okay, many would say that has been absent for years but there are some fundamental questions facing the game in 2022 and not many people in a position to provide answers.
The England & Wales Cricket Board lacks a chairman after Ian Watmore’s resignation. Tom Harrison, its chief executive, is serving out time. Ashley Giles, the England team director, will face questions about his own future after Chris Silverwood, a coach he appointed and promoted, has been found wanting in Australia.
Root may want to carry on as Test captain but that could change over the next two weeks. Eoin Morgan will be 36 this year and it is time the white-ball side were challenged. The counties may well talk about red-ball cricket as the priority but few have shown that to be the case with action and deeds. If Test cricket is to be the pinnacle of the English game then some tough negotiations will be needed with the counties over the structure and their love of Blast fixtures in the middle of the summer, and of course they always have the Hundred to throw at the ECB in return.
Root to stay on as Test captain with a new coach, maybe two in charge of England.
It is time to split the coaching roles in half. It is too big for one person. Gary Kirsten as Test coach, shockingly overlooked last time because he didn’t do a good powerpoint presentation, and Mahela Jayawardene in charge of one-day cricket. It is impossible to lure a big name coach these days to the job full time because they all have IPL gigs. But it can be split into Test and white ball cricket, especially if the team director is strong enough to manage the relationship between the two so tension over player workloads are managed properly.
Both England’s Test and one-day environments need challenging and there is nobody in English cricket equipped to do that. Root needs more support from a stronger coach, and England have to plan for life post-Morgan. Time to break the bank.