Cricket 2021: Australia, NZ win elusive titles; Racism rocks England

A racism scandal rocked English cricket in a tumultuous end to the year, while Australia and New Zealand were crowned world champions in different formats and the fate of the women’s game in Afghanistan was put in jeopardy after the Taliban’s return to power.

Australia shrugged off a horror build-up to claim the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), their first title in seven attempts.

Aaron Finch’s men peaked at just the right time to humble Pakistan in the semi-finals and then dominate New Zealand in the Dubai decider.

It was just the latest in a series of heartbreaks for New Zealand, who fell to a third defeat in four World Cup finals in six years.

It was not all doom and gloom for New Zealand though, with Kane Williamson’s team beating India in the final of the World Test Championship in Southampton.

India would later avenge that defeat by beating New Zealand in a two-Test series despite spinner Ajaz Patel claiming all 10 Indian wickets in an innings in Mumbai.

Virat Kohli stepped down as India’s 20-overs skipper and lost ODI captaincy too with Rohit Sharma taking over as their sole white-ball leader.

A more tumultuous leadership change took place in Australia with Tim Paine stepping down as test captain after a ‘sexting’ scandal and Pat Cummins taking charge ahead of the Ashes.

 

In testimony to a British parliamentary committee, an emotional Azeem Rafiq catalogued a culture of racism at Yorkshire which he said drove him to the brink of suicide.

“I lost my career to racism,” said Rafiq, who hopes his revelations would open the floodgates for fellow victims to come forward and share their stories.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has unveiled a 12-point action plan, including a review of the dressing room culture, and said they will launch an anti-discrimination unit.

 

The Pakistan Cricket Board’s hopes of hosting more international matches on home soil suffered a body blow with New Zealand and England both pulling out of tours.

PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja alleged the country had been “used and binned” by the “Western Bloc” but eventually won commitments from Australia and England to tour the country in 2022.

Across the border, Afghanistan cricket’s future was thrown in doubt after the country’s takeover by the Taliban in August.

It prompted Cricket Australia to postpone a Test match against them until it had a clearer picture of the future of women’s game in the strife-torn nation.

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