Life, in general, is unpredictable. Sport? Even more so.
Take Cristiano Ronaldo’s case, for instance. It was only months ago that he, at the age of 36, had found the back of the net 18 times in the Premier League, and ended the 2021/22 league campaign as United’s top-scorer. There were times when it felt like playing for United was beneath him; that he deserved better.
Months later, he’s declined at the rate of knots, is clubless thanks to having thrown a needless public tantrum and is all set to finish his career in the Saudi League.
So, we expected one thing; what ended up transpiring was entirely something else.
That’s precisely what we’re going to cover in this piece: Expectations vs Reality. Except we’re only going to look at a few extreme cases from the cricket world.
#1 - The English Test side
Expectation at the start of the year: For the side to drown in mediocrity, struggle with rebuilding
Truly wild. At the start of 2022, England, in Tests, were a hopeless unit. Heads rolled post the Ashes / Caribbean debacle (read: Silverwood, Root) and 2022 was hence supposed to be the year in which they rebuilt the side from scratch, prioritizing ‘process’ over ‘results’.
Look at where they are now. They’ll be entering 2023 as the most devastating, in-form side in Tests, having won 9 in 10. They’re already being dubbed revolutionaries for the utterly bonkers brand of cricket they’ve been playing and we’d all be lying if we said they’re not the most entertaining side in world cricket.
A couple of interesting sub-plots in this too: Jonny Bairstow and Brendon McCullum.
Expectation for Bairstow at the start of the year: For him to be nowhere near the Test side. Reality? He ended up starting the friggin revolution!
Expectation for McCullum at the start of the year: to be sacked by KKR. Reality? English media already have him in the GOAT debate.
#2 - Dinesh Karthik
Expectation at the start of the year: For DK to complete his transition from cricketer to full-time commentator
Reality: DK enjoyed arguably his BEST EVER year and his comeback nearly turned out to be a fairytale
Well, we all laughed last year when DK said that he still had international ambitions. Lesson learnt, I suppose. Though it’s truly a shame that his comeback didn’t quite end memorably, with him being dropped mid-way through the World Cup.
#3 - The Pakistan Test side
Expectation at the start of the year: Home dominance, for them to make the WTC final
Reality: 0 home wins in 6 Tests, seventh in the WTC table below England and West Indies
The biggest shock of the year, perhaps? Just who would have thought in January that Pakistan would go on to win a grand total of ZERO Tests against Australia and England at home, and would get WHITEWASHED by England. No, really. Imagine saying this out loud 12 months ago.
#4 - New Zealand vs Bangladesh (two-Test series)
Expectation at the start of the year: For New Zealand to win 2-0, break records left, right and center and hand Bangladesh a humiliation of a lifetime
Reality: Series drawn 1-1, Bangladesh becoming the first side in five years to win a Test in New Zealand
Forget whatever was written in the description below the previous heading. THIS, right here, was the single biggest shock of the year. Bangladesh, of all teams, broke New Zealand’s unbeaten run at home.
Here was the single-worst traveling team in Tests, probably ever, touring the most dominant side in home conditions. Heading into the series, Bangladesh had won a grand total of 3 away Tests in the preceding 12 years, while the Kiwis had won 13 and lost none at home. NONE. In five years.
And yeah, as it panned out, it was Bangladesh who put an end to the unbeaten run, scripting a remarkable 8-wicket win in Mount Maunganui.
Arguably the single biggest upset in Test history.
#5 - Alex Hales
Expectation at the start of the year: For Hales to say ‘enough is enough’ and announce his international retirement
Reality: T20 World Cup champion
This is not as wild as the Neal Maupay-Emi Martinez story but in order for Alex Hales to make a return to the England side, Eoin Morgan had to retire, Rob Key had to be appointed Managing Director, Jason Roy had to go woefully out of form and Jonny Bairstow had to get injured.
Yeah of course, ALL OF THIS happened, in the perfect series of events.
Talk about being destiny’s favorite child.
#6 - Cameron Green
Expectation at the start of the year: For Green to set aside T20s to focus on the other two formats, predominantly Tests
Reality: Second-most expensive player in IPL history
So, Cam Green’s story goes something like this. Australia took him to India for three T20Is just for the heck of it — his selection wasn’t through merit, he averaged 13.5 with the bat prior to the selection and had batted only 10 times — he had fun swinging his bat for a couple of nights and BOOM, next thing he knows, he’s become a multi-millionaire in the span of a couple of months.
Funny how ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶k̶s̶ IPL franchises work, huh?
#7 - Rohit Sharma
Expectation at the start of the year: Rohit will ‘expose’ Kohli’s captaincy and land India an ICC trophy
Reality: India endure their worst all-format year in ages, majority of the Indian fanbase end up turning on Rohit
Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? It took Rohit Sharma less than a year to realize that Indian captaincy is nothing but poisoned chalice. It’ll be highly surprising if, this time next year, Rohit continues to captain India in more than one format.
#8 - Mohammed Rizwan in Tests
Expectation at the start of the year: Potential Babar Azam successor in red-ball cricket
Reality: Dropped and replaced by 35-year-old Sarfaraz Ahmed
So, Rizwan entered 2022 having averaged 50.78 across his previous 12 Tests. He was unanimously considered the second best wicket-keeper batter in the world behind Rishabh Pant — and rightly so, having also proven himself in SENA conditions — and with a flurry of home matches to follow, nearly everyone expected him to reach an even higher level.
Well, as we speak, he’s warming the bench in Karachi, his place in the side taken by his, erm, predecessor, 35-year-old Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Rizwan’s axe came about after he endured a 12-innings period in which he averaged 21.83, passing 50 zero times. Harsh, you could say. But his form and confidence as a red-ball batter undeniably fell off a cliff.