Too Much Cricket – Is International Sport Unsustainable?

Ben Stokes’ one-day international retirement has prompted heightened scrutiny of a fixture plan that the England Test captain has described as “unsustainable”.

Here, the PA news agency assesses England’s workload as Stokes prepares to close the curtain on an ODI career in which he memorably inspired his side to victory in the 2019 World Cup Final.

How does England’s workload compare to other nations?

Joe Root made his international debut after Kane Williamson but has played more Tests and ODIs (David Davies/PA)

(PA wire)

Consider this: Joe Root made his international debut two years after Kane Williamson but has already contested more Tests (121-88) and ODIs (156-151) than the New Zealand captain. Since the start of 2017, England have had 498 scheduled cricket days, which puts them in second place with 472, ahead of India. Australia is more than 100 days behind England at 387. That’s an earthquake-ish difference.

What is different this year than other years?

England traveled to the Netherlands for three ODIs last month (David Charlesworth/PA)

(PA wire)

A consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a backlog of fixtures. A three-game ODI series in the Netherlands was originally planned for 2020 but had to be postponed between the second and third tests against New Zealand last month. India was also forced to complete its rescheduled test this month to meet demand after being prevented from playing the final game last year due to Covid concerns.

How much cricket does England actually play?

Jos Buttler takes over England 12 times in 25 days this month (Andrew Matthews/PA)

(PA wire)

This month alone, England is on 17 days. That’s not counting training or travel. White-ball coach Matthew Mott described Jos Buttler’s induction into the captaincy as a “baptism of fire” amid a 12-game, 25-day program this month against India and South Africa. From June 2 to July 3, their schedule calls for four Tests, nine ODIs and six T20s. That’s exaggerated.

Is there a change on the horizon?

There is an increase in global tournaments and Twenty20 franchise leagues (Nick Potts/PA)

(PA Archive)

The emergence of Twenty20 and the subsequent rise of the format has recently lengthened the bilateral series, while the proliferation of global tournaments and franchise leagues almost saturates the market. Cricket bosses may appear well-intentioned but may be guided by the huge sums on offer from broadcasters demanding more games, not fewer. The International Cricket Council is set to announce its next future tour program and the signs point to another heavy burden for England’s cricketers.

So what can you do?

Will Stokes be the last high-profile player to abandon a format amid an ‘unsustainable’ workload? (Mike Egerton/PA)

(PA wire)

Stokes’ decision could just be the first domino in a chain reaction, although there’s little evidence to suggest that’s the case. If the best of the best start moving away from certain formats to prolong their careers, will that persuade the International Cricket Council, membership boards and broadcasters to reconsider their calendars? England are expected to visit Pakistan twice, as well as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Bangladesh this winter. Something must give. Too Much Cricket – Is International Sport Unsustainable?

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