It’s that time of year when we all look back and contemplate the year just passed – and, in cricket, 2016 was a year when things started to look up on all fronts thanks to a host of initiatives seeking to grow the game in this country… and the emergence of a potential superstar.

Arresting the slide in participation

Last year was the inaugural year for Get The Game On – an ECB initiative to tackle falling numbers in the game – and in just its 2nd year levels of participation have already begun to rise according to figures released recently.

The initiatives don’t start and end with Get The Game On, however. This summer the ECB’s Club Open Days invited clubs around the country to throw open their doors in a bid to attract new people from their local communities to come and sample the delights of the local cricket club, and many clubs reported the day to be a huge success.

The future of the sport in this country is further boosted by frameworks like Cricket Unleashed. Now officially linked with the sport’s resident charity Chance to Shine, Cricket Unleashed lays out a simple strategy to inspire more people to get involved in cricket whether in the shape of playing the game or attending. It is also linked with the All Stars Cricket programme, a scheme to empower and enable local cricket clubs to deliver top class coaching to kids aged between 5-8.

Funding boost underlines the drive to grow the sport

All of these efforts to bring cricket to new generations will hold the future of the sport in good stead – underscored by the doubling of funding for grassroots cricket in this country, and by 2018 the sport’s governing body aims to have increased the number of children playing cricket in primary schools from 300,000 to over half a million.

Mixed bag for England but the future is in good hands

At elite level it’s been a mixed bag for the various England teams on the international scene.

England women’s cricket team went out of the T20 World Cup in the semi-finals after a disappointing defeat to Australia. A period of transition ensued for England following the retirement of Charlotte Edwards – by any measure and any standard a legend of cricket. Edwards enjoyed a phenomenal career and she bowed out of the game as the most prolific batsman the women’s game has seen and one of the most consistently successful captains of any gender in any sport.

In the shorter forms in the men’s game, England continued to carry all before them thanks to their new all-out attacking approach, racking up some huge totals including a brutal 444 at Trent Bridge – the highest ODI total of all-time. It’s taken England a while to adapt to modern one-day cricket but, with an attacking batting line-up the envy of world cricket, they finally have an exciting team well capable of providing inspiration for future generations.

Early in the summer the Test team secured a series win against a frankly hopeless touring Sri Lankan side before a drawn home series against a much tougher Pakistan outfit. At the time of writing the team is enduring a typically tough time in India as the squad goes through a period of transition, seeking to find the right XI and the right balance. The continued brilliance of the one-time boy wonder Joe Root and the meteoric rise of the even more boyish Haseeb Hameed, however, are sure to inspire young English cricketers for years and years to come. The future of English cricket is surely in good hands.

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