What can you say about a year in which England were one Test loss away from suffering their greatest number of defeats on record in a calendar year, but also won a Test series in India for the first time in 24 years? Or when they had three bowlers in the world’s top five Test wicket takers, but one of them (at time of writing anyway) is Stuart Broad? Or where they finally seemed to discover the knack of winning in ODIs, only to completely lose it in T20s? Clearly England’s year defies simple explanation, but since Editor Steve doesn’t pay us by the word (most of the time he simply doesn’t pay us at all) we will attempt to offer one anyway. England in 2012 were like your proverbial three year old. When they weren’t throwing tantrums about the most inconsequential of things, their behaviour was a picture of perfection.
Clearly the year ended on an absolute high. Although they relinquished Test cricket’s number one ranking en route, winning in India might well be seen as a more than adequate compensation. The problem, though, is whether this represents a new dawn, or just another high in the bipolar world of contemporary England cricket, quickly to be followed by yet another devastating trough. Admittedly New Zealand away and Australia at home don’t look like the most challenging of assignments, but that is to forget England’s remarkable capacity to shoot themselves in the foot.
Strangely enough the New Zealand tour looms as a potential banana skin. If the Kiwis can sort out most of their issues in time, a long drawn out tour of one of crickets more obscure backwaters could prove challenging. Especially if some team members would rather be elsewhere. Like in Australia, playing in the Big Bash. Alastair Cook has made a remarkable beginning to his career as captain, largely leading the team to success by example. But such a tour would represent a completely different challenge, one where his man management skills could be tested to their limit. Particularly if certain individuals have not ‘integrated’ back into the team setting as well as might have been hoped.
This is to take none of the gloss off the success in India, it was a remarkable achievement, not withstanding the quality of the opposition. It’s just that England have been here before, in early 2011 in fact, and didn’t really build on their success that time as might have been hoped. Success in English cricket doesn’t seem to breed further success, rather over-confidence, hubris and, ultimately, eventual failure. Those players who went through the rollercoaster that was 2012 will want to avoid that again next year. Three series wins ought to do it. And their fans probably expect no less of them.
In the shorter forms of the game the year was equally mixed. The irony of England finally getting the hang of this ODI gig, the year out from a World Cup, and about three years before the format is abandoned altogether, should be lost on nobody. They also seemed to go backwards in T20 cricket, probably because they didn’t pick Owais Shah enough. But nobody really cares about that. Unlike nonsense cricket nations like India, England doesn’t measure success by what they achieve in the limited overs field. And quite right too.