The 2021 season is murderous. How many England players will actually make it through?

Joe Root (via BT Sport)

10 Ashes Tests in a row was such a good idea and went so well that the ECB thought to themselves: “Say, why don’t we play 10 Tests on the bounce against India? Let’s really focus on that. Let’s go from August 2020 to November 2021 without playing Test cricket against anyone else.”

Then, while they were all patting themselves on the backs for having such a brilliant idea, someone added: “Then after that let’s have the World T20 and then an Ashes.”

All of this happens within a year.

The India bit

England are again due to play 10 five-day matches against the exact same opposition in a timespan of about seven months.

This is two things:

  1. Boring (after a bit)
  2. Unfair on the players

The last time England played two successive five-match series against the same opposition, the team imploded and one of the players ended up needing treatment from a mental health professional. This was not even slightly a coincidence.

The really big events (Tests against India, Tests against Australia, World Cups) bring increased stress levels long before they actually take place. Even if a player gets a physical rest in between, the mental stresses generally remain.

Speaking about his downtime between international fixtures the last time England played back-to-back five-match Test series, Jonathan Trott said: “The three weeks in between wasn’t time off because I was working hard in the nets.”

This is why, when we wrote about overtraining* for Cricinfo a few years back, we asked whether it was actually responsible to play international cricket without an off season. Switching off is not an easy thing to do when the next major engagement is already rapidly approaching.

*Overtraining is not just a physical thing.

“It’s what they’re paid to do”

Yes, exactly. It’s their job; it’s their livelihood. Everything’s riding on it. And if that weren’t enough, cricket is also for many players pretty much their whole personal identity.

For cricketers who do nothing but play cricket and who are forever being told that the next batch of cricket coming up is really very significant, their whole emotional wellbeing is bound up in how things go on the field. When things don’t go well on the field, things don’t go so well off the field either.

Dr Richard Winsley of the University of Exeter told us that major non-playing stresses for a sportsman include frequent fixtures, competition for places, travel, and being apart from family and friends for long periods in foreign hotel rooms.

These are the things that eat away at you and wear you to a nub even when you’re supposedly ‘resting’.

England’s big fixtures in 2021

Let’s bullet point England’s major 2021 engagements (there are actually a fair number of one-day series in addition to this) and try and imagine how we would switch off and recover if our whole career hinged on making runs or taking wickets in these matches.

  • January-March: five Tests against India
  • July-September: five Tests against India
  • October-November: World T20
  • November onwards: The Ashes

It’s really hard to look at that without envisaging mental casualties.


Stop, stop. Wait a minute.


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11 Appeals

  1. Good to see too that despite pretty much destroying their players, England won’t spend any of that time bothering with Zimbabwe or Afghanistan and won’t play Bangladesh at home (making it at least 13 years without them touring). Shakib will probably only tour England once in his whole career (a 2 Test and 3 ODI series), but never mind. They won’t need to bother with Sri Lanka in Tests at home either.

    More concerning, while they will play Australia in some sort of Test and/or LO tour in 2017, 2018, 2019,2020,2021,2022 and 2023, they might not play India at all in 2019 or 2020. Some would say that 10 Tests and almost certainly at least 6 ODIs and 6 T20s in 2021 will make up for it, but I will probably have lost interest in cricket in that 2 year gap where they don’t play each other at all.

    • I don’t want England to play any team more frequently than once at home every four years, and the same away, two years separated.

      I am sick to death of games against Australia. Even this series, amusing though the results have been. There’s no anticipation when we play them every three months.

      • By way of contrast, daneel, if the Leicestershire fans had chanted, “can we play you every week?” in the direction of small group of Middlesex faithful at Grace Road, the Middlesex supporters could have responded, “no – in fact you can’t even play us once more time this season, because the second division tournament is a lopsided, half-baked contrivance”…

        …these are not great chants, but you get my point.

      • One has to suspect that they wouldn’t be chanting that now.

        Leics really are hopeless. Although even this combined with the Durham debacle still leaves them with three or four seasons’ worth of wins this year.

      • What an extraordinary game of cricket.

        Leicestershire really are not hopeless, daneel. Middlesex were poor one days one and two but it still took good cricket on Leicestershire’s part for them to be all over Middlesex like a rash.

        I saw the first three days in full – I didn’t see today’s play – but the Leicestershire bowling was good last night and by all accounts was fine today. The pitch didn’t continue to deteriorate beyond teatime yesterday – throughout the match it was a good pitch with just a bit of variable bounce – nothing for the spinners. Once a decent batsman got set it was hard to dislodge him, but there was always the chance that the odd ball would misbehave off a length.

        I was very impressed with Raine, Chappell and Griffiths – all three home grown players and all three look like good all-round cricketers…by which I mean bowling all-rounders.

        OK, “can we play you every week?” wouldn’t be the chant, but “can we have first class cricket of that calibre every week?” would be a valid question, deserving the answer,..

        …”yes, except I’m not sure that my nerves could take it”.

      • I’m being unfair, I know. Nixon has got them playing much better this year – and the bowling does seem to be a step up from the recent past. Chappell I know is very highly regarded – which probably means he’s off to Notts before long.

        I think I need to take a mental health break from my bat and ball teams; both Leics and the Seattle Mariners have decided to move on from being generically bad to teasing their supporters with a glimmer of hope before snatching it away.

        I really don’t mind Leics losing (it would have been a tough 10 years if I did), but I really could do with them not blowing it when in such strong positions. (insert hope/despair Clockwise quote here).

        Seattle hauled themselves into contention with an extended run of one-run victories before deciding to go with a new tactic of blowing huge leads in humiliating fashion (twice in one game yesterday) . The truth is really that they had a long run of fixtures against poor sides and they’re regressing to the mean against the good ones, but it’s still really annoying.

  2. Yeah, it’s an ‘orphan’ series with no Tests, half the Australian team is banned or injured, and there were a lot of other things going on today, but when a cricket fan is tired of watching Australia lose a series 5-0, they are tired of life.

    • In one weekend, England teams won in cricket, football, rugby league and rugby union, while an Englishman won in the Formula 1.

      The England women’s team lost their T20 against South Africa but won their T20 against New Zealand. These double-headers are confusing, are we allowed to count the win towards the total or does that mean we need to include the loss as well?

    • 5-0…..
      Just imagine what Scotland could do to this Australian side!

      • As Rio Ferdinand said when the score was 5-0, you have to remember that the opposition probably wasn’t even up to non-league standard.

        I assume he was discussing the cricket.

  3. Wizard Buttler sinks Oz

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