After a solid year for both the men and women’s Australian cricket teams, the opportunity to go into the record books will drive their fortunes in 2023, writes DANIEL CHERNY.
It was a year of triumph, tragedy and tension in cricket, and somehow, 2023 promises to be even bigger.
How good a year was it for the Aussie men?
Overall, it was a strong year for the Aussies, who lost just one Test in 2022, mid-year in Sri Lanka. While an Ashes whitewash was narrowly denied by England’s tail in Sydney, the tourists were crushed in Hobart to make it 4-0. Australia’s first tour of Pakistan in 24 years was an attritional affair but ended with a Nathan Lyon-inspired victory, before the mixed bag of a 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka. The West Indies were thrashed with minimal fuss before South Africa, billed as the major challenger for the summer, were cast aside inside six days of Test cricket, Australia’s first home Test series win against the Proteas in 17 summers. There was however one major disappointment, with Australia’s Twenty20 World Cup defence failing limply. The Aussies were crushed in their tournament opener by New Zealand and never really got going, missing the semi-finals, albeit only losing one match for the tournament.
How about the women?
The Australian women did what the Australian women tend to do: win. It was a landmark year for the side, who completed a hat-trick of marquee triumphs. First it was the Ashes on home soil, a series which featured a cliffhanger Test in Canberra which served as a brilliant advertisement for more long-form women’s cricket. Then came redemption at the one-day World Cup in New Zealand, banishing the demons of a wasted shot at the title in 2017. Finally there was further history with Commonwealth Games gold at the first time of trying in Birmingham. The year-ended sweetly too, with a 4-1 T20 series win in India and more pertinently the news that captain Meg Lanning was set to return from a four-month personal spell.
What about next year?
Legacies can be forged any time an Australian team takes the park, but some series are bigger than others, and in that respect 2023 is a whopper for the Aussie men. With a Test tour of India early in the year, this group of players have the chance to do what only one Australian touring party has done in more than half a century: win a Test series in India. After that should come a World Test Championship final, then the small matter of an away Ashes series, something Australia hasn’t won (the series was drawn in 2019) since 2001.
If that wasn’t enough there’s also a one-day World Cup in India late in the year. There are many from this Australian era who already have claims to be considered greats of the game. But feats this year could dictate who is remembered as legend. It’s not quite as bumper a year for the women but it’s hardly a small one either. It’s hard to believe that the time has nearly arrived for the Aussies to defend their memorable T20 World Cup crown, with the next tournament beginning in February in South Africa. Then mid-year there’s another Ashes series.
So, how about England?
A year that started with English cricket in crisis following another Ashes shellacking Down Under, leading to the sacking of coach Chris Silverwood and Joe Root standing down as Test captain, ended with the old enemy triumphant and bullish about reclaiming the urn next year. Under new coach Brendon McCullum and skipper Ben Stokes, England tore through their home Test summer, batting at a rate of knots and beating India, South Africa and New Zealand.
England’s Test year was capped with a whitewash of Pakistan on Pakistani soil, the Bazball revolution best summed up by the tourists making 500 runs in just 74 overs on the opening day of the series. In between their Test conquests, England – under white-ball coach Matthew Mott – franked their white-ball ascendancy of recent years by winning the T20 World Cup, crushing India in the semi-final at Adelaide Oval before suffocating Pakistan in the final at the MCG.
What were the big off-field talking points?
It has been yet another bruising year for Cricket Australia. The governing body copped it for the messy and protracted saga around Justin Langer’s departure as men’s team coach, losing plenty of skin in the process. Tim Paine’s autobiography shone further light on the circumstances leading to his resignation as Test captain late in 2021, with CA chief Nick Hockley coming under fire for seemingly passing the buck on the call of how to deal with Paine.
It was a similar theme in December when David Warner sensationally walked away from his 10-month bid to have a lifetime leadership ban overturned, with the punchy veteran lashing out at CA for the way the process was handled.
Broadcast rights negotiations dragged on after another year of challenges for the beleaguered Big Bash League, who had to deal with a season marred by Covid-19 and then the threat of rival leagues in South Africa and the UAE poaching top overseas players. The chairmanship of CA also continued to be a revolving door, with interim Richard Freudenstein replaced by Dr Lachlan Henderson who was on the way out by year’s end, making way for former NSW Premier Mike Baird. Hockley enters 2023 as a man under pressure.
What will linger most in the memory?
For all the on-field theatrics and backroom politics, 2022 may best be remembered as a year of monumental loss for the game. The loss of the legendary Rod Marsh in March was felt heavily by the Australian cricket fraternity, but within 24 hours came a considerably more seismic jolt when the news came through late on a Friday night that Shane Warne had died suddenly in Thailand. Tributes flooded in; indeed they never really stopped for the remainder of the year. May brought further heartbreak when Andrew Symonds was killed in a car crash at just 46, leaving two members of Australia’s golden era gone in the space of a few months. Former Australian selection chair Laurie Sawle also died in July at the age of 96.