If England needed a wake-up call about how unsustainable their current schedule is, they certainly got it with Ben Stokes’ retirement from one-day international cricket.
Stokes is the one current England cricketer who is undeniably a household name. He almost single-handedly won them their epic World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s three summers ago – a match that was broadcast on free-to-air TV. He is a British sporting icon and rightly so.
Now, though, he will not be there for the defense of that title in India next year.
At 31, Stokes certainly had more to give to the ODI format. Yet even for a man described as “superhuman” by England’s former white-ball captain Eoin Morgan after that World Cup Final, the schedule was too much.
Having taken on the Test captaincy at the start of this summer, Stokes, a player who took a mental health break from cricket last summer, already had a huge workload.
So to ask him to play all three formats in an age where England are cramming ever more cricket into smaller and smaller windows was always going to end like this.
To put England’s current summer into context, it lasts 103 days between June and September. They will play on 50 of them.
Series are already overlapping, with a one-day squad traveling to the Netherlands last month in the middle of a Test series against New Zealand.
A T20 squad had already departed for the West Indies in January before England’s Ashes campaign in Australia had ended.
This current glut of white-ball matches against India and South Africa started just two days after the final Test against India at Edgbaston earlier this month. There is a one-day gap between the end of the India ODIs and the next series that starts against South Africa on Tuesday. In all, England will cram 12 matches against India and South Africa – six ODIs and six T20s – into 25 days before the month is out.
There is a break for two weeks after that to allow England’s players – but not Stokes – to play in the Hundred. Then three more Tests against South Africa. If you’re feeling exhausted reading all of this then get this – England’s winter starts two days after the end of the summer. Yes, a T20 squad will fly out to Pakistan for a seven-match series just 48 hours after the end of the final Test against South Africa at The Oval.
There are then three T20s in Australia before a World Cup in the same country and then three ODIs that overlap with the start of England’s Test tour of Pakistan.
A one-day series in South Africa in January then overlaps with the start of a Test tour of New Zealand that is not finished before a white-ball tour of Bangladesh comprising three ODIs and three T20s starts. It’s crazy. Unless England’s all-format players can magic up teleportation or clone themselves it’s not possible – or desirable – to play everything.
England’s crazy schedule in 2022
England play 110 days of cricket across three formats, with three home series and six foreign tours in 2022…
- 4-8, 4th Test vs Australia
- 14-16, 5th Test vs Australia
- 22, 1st T20 vs West Indies
- 23, 2nd T20 vs West Indies
- 26, 3rd T20 vs West Indies
- 29, 4th T20 vs West Indies
- 30, 5th T20 vs West Indies
- 8-12, 1st Test vs West Indies
- 16-20, 2nd Test vs West Indies
- 24-27, 3rd Test vs West Indies
- 2-5, 1st Test vs New Zealand
- 10-14, 2nd Test vs New Zealand
- 17, 1st ODI vs Netherlands
- 19, 2nd ODI vs Netherlands
- 22, 3rd ODI vs Netherlands
- 23-27, 3rd Test vs New Zealand
- 1-5, Test vs India
- 7, 1st T20 vs India
- 9, 2nd T20 vs India
- 10, 3rd T20 vs India
- 12, 1st ODI vs India
- 14, 2nd ODI vs India
- 17, 3rd ODI vs India
- 19, 1st ODI vs South Africa
- 22, 2nd ODI vs South Africa
- 24, 3rd ODI vs South Africa
- 27, 1st T20 vs South Africa
- 28, 2nd T20 vs South Africa
- 31, 3rd T20 vs South Africa
- 17-21, 1st Test vs South Africa
- 25-29, 2nd Test vs South Africa
- 8-12, 3rd Test vs South Africa
- 9, 1st T20 VS Australia
- 12, 2nd T20 vs Australia
- 14, 3rd T20 vs Australia
- 22-13 Men’s T20 World Cup (up to seven games)
- 17, 1st ODI vs Australia
- 19, 2nd ODI vs Australia
- 22, 3rd ODI vs Australia
- England’s tour of Pakistan is yet to be confirmed. However, three Tests and seven T20Is are scheduled to be played between September and December 2022.
Research by Jack Butler
There is simply too much cricket and it’s killing the sport and shortening careers, including that of the most iconic English cricketer of his generation. The England & Wales Cricket Board talks big about player welfare and mental health. But talk is cheap when you are flogging players to increase profit and legitimize a new tournament in the Hundred that has squeezed the county and domestic international schedule to bursting point.
Stokes won’t be the last to call time on 50-over cricket, a format that domestically has been reduced to development status after the ECB’s decision to schedule the Royal London One-Day Cup at the same time as the Hundred.
Jonny Bairstow may well decide to call time on ODIs next and Mark Wood and Jofra Archer, two fast bowlers who have been beset by injury, will probably follow. Then there is Moeen Ali, who has come out of Test retirement but cannot surely play all three formats if he’s picked again for the longest format. The logical option would be for him, too, to call time on ODIs. Then there’s the glut of superstars across the world who may well do the same.
The primacy of Test cricket is a priority, while the T20 format is where the real money is made – for boards and players. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out which format is facing extinction.