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Two thousand and thirteen promises to be one of the least diverse years in England's recent cricketing history. In the next 13 months, they will play 15 Tests, 25 ODIs (one or two more if they qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy), and ten T20Is. After the impending five-match ODI series in India, all but two of their remaining currently scheduled total of 105 potential days of international cricket will be against New Zealand (up to 37 days: five Tests, seven ODIs, five T20Is) or Australia (up to 66 days: ten Tests, 11 ODIs, five T20Is).
A group-stage Champions Trophy game against Sri Lanka, and a one-off ODI versus Ireland, offer the only non-antipodean variety in this oversized blancmange of cricketing homogeneity. As Aristotle once sagely said: "You can have too much of a good thing." Admittedly, the former professional philosopher said that after waking up naked on top of the Parthenon after a few too many flagons of cheap ouzo and an unsuccessful wrestle with a man in a pantomime lion outfit claiming to be Hercules (Source: The Complete and Incontrovertible Oxford History of Classical Philosophy , by Prof VZ Snutterbuck OBE, Vol. VII, pp. 213-279). However, the famously wise old celeb had a point.
All the indications suggest that, had Aristotle been born in a cricket-playing nation at some point in the mid-to-late 20th century, he would have been a big cricket fan, and quite probably a journalist and/or commentator (Source: From Confucius to Wittgenstein: Dead Philosophers I Would Like To See Me Bowl , by JW Dernbach).
As such, Aristotle would undoubtedly have sat down on New Year's day and thought: "Emotionally and logistically, I am going to have to prioritise. Even I, as a hardcore fan of the great game and, more importantly, as the senior cricket correspondent of the
"Tell you what ‒ I'll set myself a challenge," the ace-class thinkster would continue. "I'll try to write the words 'Phil Hughes edged to third slip' on fewer than 25 occasions this year. It's going to be tough but I'll give it a go. And I'll try to enjoy the ODI series in India whilst I have the chance. Even if it is tagged on as a bit of an afterthought to last year's Test series, and even if England are resting key players because they also have to prioritise what cricket they most care about ‒ because they have somehow scheduled themselves 103 days of cricket against just two countries from the other side of the planet in the next 13 months."
Aristotle would conclude: "I am going to make two predictions for this year. Prediction One: if on 31 December 2013 you ask 100 randomly selected cricket fans what the scoreline was in the five-match ODI series between England and Australia in September, a maximum of three will give you the correct answer. Two of them will have guessed it, and the other one will only remember because he landed a 12,000,000-1 accumulator bet because of it (the other three bets in which were: the British media to get overexcited at the birth of the magic royal baby; at least one six to be hit in this year's IPL; and Chris Martin to score a Test hundred at Lord's).
"And Prediction Two: on current form, and with this schedule, effigies of Alastair Cook are going to be the biggest-selling Christmas gift of 2013 in 99% of all Australian shops."
When pressed for a prediction for the India-England series, Aristotle would stroke his outdated beard, say, "Well, that depends on whether India bat as badly as they did against Pakistan ‒which in turn depends in part on whether James Tredwell has borrowed Saeed Ajmal's body ‒ and on whether England play as well as they did when they last played Test cricket in India, and not as well as they did when they last played ODI cricket in India. So, tough call. I'll say 3-2 to India. Now leave me alone, I have to do some philosophy about how human beings should live, and stuff like that."
● England will have watched Pakistan's superb series win with interest, and will have noted their key tactics - have a left-handed opening batsman who can score hundreds; and bowl relentlessly well. Part A they have the personnel in place for; Part B might be trickier to accomplish. Pakistan's bowlers conceded just 3.77 per over during the series - the most economical performance by any bowling attack in an ODI series against India since New Zealand shipped 3.40 per over in a seven-match series in 2002-03, and the second lowest ever by a visiting attack in a one-day series in India (beaten only by the 1983-84 Pakistanis, who went for 3.57 per over in two games).
It was the first time an away team in a bilateral ODI series between top-eight Test nations has conceded less than four per over since Pakistan's trip to Sri Lanka in 2005-06 (3.60 per over - the only such performance more economical than the current Pakistan team's recent effort since 1994-95).
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writerFeeds: Andy Zaltzman
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Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on ESPNcricinfo.