Sports management games occupy a certain niche in the video game industry. They are only for a select group of people. Even fans of the sport in question may not have the required patience to see one through. But no game represents the subtlety and nuance of sports management games like Cricket Captain 2021.
The Cricket Captain series, formerly known as International Cricket Captain, is fascinating. Cricket is a sport that draws people in with its minute details and keeps their attention with tense, drawn-out battles. To sum it up, it was once described as a game where the spectators burn more calories than the players. But to those who love it, it is pure beauty. The Cricket Captain series, by Childish Things, is made for those people.
In Cricket Captain 2021, you take control of your favourite province, nation or both. It has international series set up for all nations. It also has provincial leagues for almost all of them too. You control the squad selection, player development, and off-season signings. During the matches, you manage your players’ aggression and choose your bowlers and field settings. In fact, you do everything except actually play the game.
Cricket Captain 2021 succeeds from is its never-ending nature. Some game simulations are extremely limited (I’m looking at you, Codemasters), while others could go on forever. Fortunately, this is the latter. With the player generation that is built into this game, you could continue managing your team well after any current player has hung up their gloves. Sure, like every other fan, I would like to see more in the game. The ability to play as an associate nation, or even women’s cricket. But overall, the engine they have to build is something special.
“One of the most impressive parts of Cricket Captain 2021 is the extensive statistical database.”
Every year, Childish Things add a handful of new features to the newest edition of Cricket Captain. Sometimes they take into account their rabid fans’ wishes for extras to make the game more complete. One of the biggest additions to this year’s game is cricket’s perpetual will-they-won’t-they – The Hundred. This is a new format dreamt up by the English Cricket Board to put bums on seats, and it’s available in Cricket Captain 2021 for the first time. They have also added in Super Overs — as a Black Caps fan, damn those Super Overs! — as well as the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern system for determining the results of rain-fraught limited-overs matches.
This year they have also added:
- The World Test Championship and ODI Super League
- Updated English cricket rules to reflect Brexit
- The ability to switch internation teams
- An updated South African domestic league
- Improved batting an bowling controls
One of the most impressive parts of Cricket Captain 2021 is the extensive statistical database. It has batting stats, bowling figures, and team stats for all-time highs and all-time lows. Hell, it even has part-time players for every province in every Full Member nation. It is a cricket purist’s dream, getting lost in and amongst the numbers. It’s enough to make you feel like Neo in The Matrix.
As per every year, Childish things have continued to add to the statistical behemoth they have created. This year, they have looked towards aggressive batting, adding in statistics for the fastest 50s and 100s to satiate the Chris Gayle within you.
“This game is not for everyone. It’s not even for every cricket fan.”
Unfortunately for me, there’s one bugbear that continues to persist. Aggression in limited-overs matches had often been quite poor, with it being rare to pass 300 in an ODI, even against an Associate on a flat deck. Well, this hasn’t changed. It is still hard to score at the same rates seen the world over, which takes away from the realism the game offers and instead adds to the frustration.
The graphics of the series have always been a point of contention. Let’s be blunt here: they look like they’d be at home on a PS2. But to be completely honest, anyone who has played this game more than once knows it is not about the graphics. With such a small team and a focus on the behind-the-scenes detail, they were always going to take a back seat. However, when I see the same clip of the batsman inside-edging a cover drive and being caught at cow corner that I first saw in International Cricket Captain III, it does remove some of the immersion.
Let’s get real here. This game is not for everyone. It’s not even for every cricket fan. There is a niche market that this game appeals to, and it serves that market well. For me, someone who plays this game at least every couple of years, it scratches an itch. The changes aren’t groundbreaking, and to appeal to the mainstream market, Childish Things need to look at a massive revamp.