Home 80s & 90s Cricket Whose turn is it this year?

Whose turn is it this year?

by Daniel Wood

There used to be a lovely symmetry to the frequency and regularity of visitors to these shores when I first got into cricket. You knew that without fail every 4 years you’d have The Ashes and my personal favourite, the visit of the mighty West Indies.

In between these 2 “big series” you had a consistent sprinkling of New Zealand, Pakistan and India. Like an Olympic, footballing World Cup or Leap Year you could set your 4 year Calendar cycle by it.

However in the very different climate (global warming pun non-intentional) of 2023 I have to consult my Wisden to get my head around where England are going to be in the winter and who is making the trip to Lord’s & co in the summer. Invariably it’s at least 3 or 4 different countries in various ODI/T20 guises meaning a complete saturation of international cricket. Whatever happened to less is more?

Although before I slip into an “it was better in my day” armchair it has to be said that the diversity of nations now touring is to be welcomed. We see Ireland, South Africa, Sri Lanka added to the established tourists. We just need to work on getting Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe over more frequently; however politics and comparative financial reward through gates and TV rights build their own, complicated barriers.

It turns out that Ireland come over in early summer 2023 as an easily digestible starter. The World Test Championship Final will then be played out between Australia and India at Lord’s; the former will then compete in The Ashes.

This brings my cricket watching full circle.

Cricket as a spectacle for me began in the most untypical of years for England as a Test nation of that era. It was a summer where England were successful.

If The Ashes in the 80s gets brought up it’s always 1981 that takes centre stage, Botham, Willis etc. For me though it was the 1985 Ashes. The summer of countless (well 732) David Gower runs and IT Botham taking wickets at will and batting like he was in a Stokes/McCullum side that brought the game to my attention.

This game that so bewitched my father came alive to me on car journeys where Johnners, Blowers and Trevor Bailey gently described the trials and tribulations of a team I can still name from 1-11 now off by heart.   

If I thought every summer would see England vanquish and chase invaders from all four quarters of the country then I was in for a rude awakening.

1986 saw a first ever series home defeat to New Zealand and defeat to India. 87 brought cheer to the visiting Pakistan side. Before my favourite touring side, West Indies, pitched up in the infamous 4 captain summer of 1988. With their fearsome pace attack and flamboyant batting it was a window to an exciting new world, so different from what was served up by my home nation. They ran riot but worse was to come. By the time Australia visited again in ’89 they were transformed and The Ashes wouldn’t return to England for a couple of decades.

Nevertheless as an impressionable 8 year old 1985 was perfect. The brilliant Peter West was still commentating, TMS was arguably at its peak and the cricket was absorbing. I wore out my VHS recalling that summer from having it on constant replay. I would play cricket with friends and bemuse, confuse and frankly annoy them by quoting the commentary from that video as I played a flashing cover drive (sort of…) “majestic, even casually majestic”.

Sprinkled between the highlights was captain Gower talking to Richie Benaud in the Long Room at Lord’s as they recalled, what in the end, became a comfortable win for the home side.

4 English batsman (Gatting, Gooch, Gower, Robinson) averaged over 50 and scored big centuries. Richard Ellison played in just 2 tests but managed to take 17 wickets at 10 and the spin twins of Emburey and Edmonds. Not to mention familiar Aussie basher Botham performing many a star turn, particularly with the ball.

The availability of video highlights and indeed live cricket is on another stratosphere to what was around in 1985. As with most things every is analysed, over-analysed and then analysed some more but I like to think that there’s an 8 year old somewhere that will turn on the telly, or be sat in his Dad’s car at some point this summer who falls in love with the game that’s kept me captivated for nearly 40 years.

Follow me on Twitter at: @80s90sCricket

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