Talking point

‘Alarm bells’ for authorities: is there too much cricket being played?

Ben Stokes quitting one-day internationals has sparked a debate over the packed schedule

England Test captain Ben Stokes has blamed an “unsustainable” schedule for why he has retired from one-day international (ODI) cricket. The Durham all-rounder played his final 50-over match for England at his home ground in Chester-le-Street yesterday. 

Speaking ahead of the 62-run loss against South Africa at the Riverside Ground, Stokes told the BBC’s Test Match Special there is “too much cricket rammed in” for people to play the three formats – Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s. “We are not cars, you can’t just fill us up and we’ll go out there and be ready to be fuelled up again,” he added. 

The 31-year-old was given a “terrific ovation” after being dismissed for five runs against South Africa, said Sky Sports. He ended his 105-match ODI career having scored 2,924 runs, including three centuries, and took 74 wickets with a best of 5-61 against Australia in 2013. Stokes also starred with a man-of-the-match performance as England won the Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand in 2019. 

A ‘once-in-a-generation’ player 

Stokes took over as England’s Test captain in April and he felt that the “jam-packed” nature of the cricketing calendar meant something had to give. “I think the schedule and everything that is expected of us these days, for me personally at the moment, it feels unsustainable,” he told Sky Sports Cricket’s Nasser Hussain. “It was never going to be an easy [decision] but now being the captain of the Test team, and how much cricket we’ve got coming up, I’ve got to bear in mind that I’ve got to look after my body.”

Jos Buttler, England’s current white-ball captain, hailed Stokes as a “once-in-a-generation” player. He believes that the all-rounder’s retirement should “absolutely” be a bit of a “wake-up call” for the bodies in charge of the sport. 

Eoin Morgan, who captained England to World Cup glory in 2019, added that it’s “incredibly sad” that Stokes has retired from the one-day game at just 31-years-old. 

Cricket needs its ‘headline acts’

In his interview with Sky Sports, Stokes revealed that he wants to play “140, 150” Test matches – he has played 83 Tests since making his debut against Australia in Adelaide in December 2013. Giving up one of the game’s formats has “come earlier” than he would have liked, but there’s “a longevity” he’s thought about when making his decision. 

In the space of a generation the amount of cricket played by international teams has “massively increased”, said The Guardian. Last year England played 41 matches: 15 Tests, nine ODIs and 17 T20s. In 1991 they played 17 games: nine Tests, eight ODIs and no T20s. 

So far this summer England have played four Test matches – three against New Zealand and one against India. While the limited overs team have played three ODIs against the Netherlands followed by three ODIs and three Twenty20s against India. In the series against South Africa, there’s three ODIs, three Twenty20s and three Tests before 12 September. 

Over the next 12 months England will play “more than 100 days of men’s international cricket across all formats”, said Matthew Henry on the BBC. Stokes’s withdrawal from ODIs “should ring alarm bells among cricket’s authorities”. With such an intense schedule, it’s a “worrying prospect” that one of the game’s biggest stars is removing himself from part of it. Cricket is “nothing” without its “headline acts” – “it must heed these warnings”.

England men’s 2022 summer fixtures and results 

England vs. New Zealand Test series
  • 1st Test at Lord’s: England won by five wickets
  • 2nd Test at Trent Bridge: England won by five wickets  
  • 3rd Test at Emerald Headingley: England won by seven wickets 
Netherlands vs. England one-day series
  • 1st ODI: England won by 232 runs
  • 2nd ODI: England won by six wickets 
  • 3rd ODI: England won by eight wickets 
England vs. India Test match
  • Edgbaston: England won by seven wickets 
England vs. India IT20 Series
  • Ageas Bowl: India won by 50 runs
  • Edgbaston: India won by 49 runs
  • Trent Bridge: England won by 17 runs
England vs. India one-day series 
  • Kia Oval: India won by ten wickets 
  • Lord’s: England won by 100 runs
  • Emirates Old Trafford: India won by five wickets 
England vs. South Africa one-day series
  • 1st ODI at Riverside: South Africa won by 62 runs 
  • 22 July: Emirates Old Trafford (1pm)
  • 24 July: Headingley (11am)
England vs. South Africa international Twenty20 series
  • 27 July: The Seat Unique Stadium, Bristol (6.30pm)
  • 28 July: Sophia Gardens (6.30pm)
  • 31 July: Ageas Bowl (4.30pm)
England vs. South Africa Test series
  • 17-21 August: Lord’s (11am)
  • 25-29 August: Emirates Old Trafford (11am)
  • 8-12 September: Kia Oval (11am)

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