The year 2021 would be remembered for bringing normalcy to the post-Covid-19 world. Sports and entertainment activities, that were reduced to few in 2020, returned to be part of the norm in 2021.
If 2020 was a horrible experience, the year 2021 brought some relief to what could have been an unimaginable lifestyle a couple of years ago. Vaccine distribution started in early 2021, in most parts of the world and slowly, life got its ‘life’ back.
Most of the sporting events that were cancelled in 2020, finally saw the light of day in 2021; stadiums, empty for months, got some spectators to cheer the playing teams,
while movies that were delayed due to COVID-19, finally got released, some in cinemas, some on OTT platforms.
The Pakistan cricket team had an excellent year as far as performance is concerned. Beginning with a loss in the Test series in New Zealand, the team bounced back with a home-series win against South Africa.
Pakistan also won the T20I series at home as well as the ODI and T20I series in South Africa; Babar Azam managed to score centuries in both ODI and T20I cricket, while Fakhar Zaman scored one hundred and missed his second double-tonne in the three ODIs he played.
Returning after more than a decade to Test cricket, Batsman Fawad Alam managed to score hundreds against South Africa, Zimbabwe, and West Indies, but the year belonged to wicket-keeper Mohammed Rizwan.
Named one of the five cricketers for the year 2021 by ‘Cricket Bible’ Wisden, Mohammed Rizwan was promoted to the opening position and repaid his captain’s trust by scoring record 1326 runs in T20 internationals, the most by any batsman ever in the shortest format of international cricket.
By scoring hundreds in T20Is and Tests, he became only the second wicket-keeper in the history of the game — after New Zealand’s Brandon McCullum — to have scores of over 100 in all three formats.
Rizwan’s opening partner, Babar Azam, managed to reach the top of ICC rankings in ODIs after amassing over 200 runs with an average of 76 in the ODI series in and against South Africa earlier this year. He also had an eventful T20 World Cup, where he led Pakistan to the semi-finals. Babar Azam, with his four fifties in that World Cup, also managed to top the ICC T20 batting rankings.
Pakistan’s finest hour came against the Indian side during the ICC World T20 in the United Arab Emirates. In their opening match against the arch-rivals, Pakistan trounced India by ten wickets, inflicting the biggest defeat on India in an ICC event. They also took revenge from New Zealand, who had earlier ditched Pakistan on the eve of the opening match of the ODI series in Pakistan, in September.
The Greenshirts defeated New Zealand by five wickets as Asif Ali came of age and scored 27 not out on just 12 deliveries. He also scored an unbeaten 25 off 7 deliveries, with four sixes in the next match against Afghanistan, reminding his fans that, with him down the order, everything would be fine. The men-in-green ended the year with two wins in six ODIs, but out of 29 T20I matches, they managed to win 20 (which is a record), and out of nine tests, they emerged victorious in seven.
The bad news for cricket lovers was that the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League was shifted to the UAE after just 14 matches (due to Covid-19) and was completed later. However, the organisers are hopeful that the next edition in 2022 will be entirely held in Pakistan, and players from around the world will feature in it.
In December 2021, the West Indian team visited Pakistan for a T20I and ODI series; after the T20I series was played in Karachi, the series had to be postponed (again due to Covid-19) but thankfully, the West Indians have confirmed that they will return to complete their tour next year. Also, the Australians are also scheduled to visit Pakistan in March 2022, some 24 years after their last visit in 1998. New Zealand, who left their tour due to security reasons, have also agreed to visit Pakistan in the next 12 months.
The main attraction of the year would be the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup scheduled to be played in October 2022 in Australia. The tournament was to be held in 2020, however, the International Cricket Council (ICC) had it postponed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for other games, the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament finally resumed after two years, and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic won the title for the sixth time, tying Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with 20 Grand Slam titles. Djokovic lifted the Australian Open and French Open titles but lost the year-ending US Open to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who avenged his loss in the finals of the Australian Open, by trouncing the No. 1 player in straight sets.
The Olympic Games were finally held in Tokyo, between July 23 and August 8. Scheduled to be held in 2020, the games were also hit by the Covid-19 chaos. This time around, Pakistan gave their best performance since 2000 as Arshad Nadeem, who represented Pakistan at the Men’s Javelin throw, qualified for the final event, and finished fifth; whereas Mahoor Shahzad became the first female badminton played to represent Pakistan, ever.
However, the hero of Pakistan’s contingent was Talha Talib, the top weightlifter from Pakistan who finished fifth in the men’s 67 kg event. At one time he was all set to win the bronze but was 2 kilograms shy of the person who eventually ended at the third position.
Football was also at the receiving end due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Euro 2020 was postponed to the summer of 2021, with matches played across the continent for the first time in the competition’s 60-year history. As many as 11 cities hosted the match with the final being held at Wembley Stadium, London. The final was played between hosts England and Italy in July 2021, and it ended on a penalty shoot-out, with Italy emerging as champions for the first title since 1968.
Similarly, the COPA America, originally scheduled to take place in 2020 in Argentina and Colombia, was moved a year ahead. In 2021, the tournament took place in Brazil from 13 June to 10 July 2021 and was won by Lionel Messi’s Argentina, on the same day as Italy was crowned the Euro champions.
The year 2022, would surely be the first time in the history of the Football World Cup that the event would be held in November, in a country that does not even have a powerful football team. Football World Cup 2022 would be played in Qatar in November and December 2022, with as many as four matches in a day, all within 50 miles of each other. The spectators can easily watch two matches a day, with simple time management, where France would be defending its title.
The year 2021 saw movies that were delayed due to Covid-19 in 2020. Marvel’s Black Widow eventually got released after facing delays for more than a year. The film traces the origin of superhero Black Widow, but failed to live up to the mark and the Avengers were missed in the ‘solo’ Marvel flick, starring Scarlett Johannsson.
However, a new superstar team was introduced in star-studded Eternals and despite the presence of veterans Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie, it also fell short of the Avengers benchmark by miles.
The year 2020 ended with the release of DC’s Wonder Woman: 1984 simultaneously in theatres and OTT platforms, however, viewers got to see Wonder Woman again with Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg, fighting Steppenwolf, in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Released on HBO Max in March, it was termed as the director’s cut to the 2017 Justice League; the movie that started by Zack Snyder, but was completed by Avengers director Joss Whedon, when the Snyder family met a tragedy during the pre-production phase of the film. Zack Snyder’s Justice League became the fourth-most-streamed film debut on the platform in 2021.
Considered to be superior to the theatrical version, it also led to the #RestoretheSnyderVerse campaign on social media. However, the film that was the reason for packed theatres was none other than Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home that became the most successful film of the year.
The presence of diabolical villains not only raised the bar but also helped cinemas that were thronged by audiences on the day of the film’s release on December 17. The theatrical release of Spider-Man overshadowed even the Matrix: Resurrections and gave no chance to Keanu Reeves’ Matrix franchise to enjoy a decent run in theatres.
DC’s anti-heroes, Suicide Squad got its sequel after debuting in 2016, while Tom Hardy’s Venom managed its second outing in four years.
Famous animated series PAW Patrol finally had its full-length feature film debut while iconic arch enemies Tom and Jerry turned friends in a live-action film for the first time.
Looney Tunes were back as Space Jam was revisited as Space Jam: A New Legacy, this time with Basketball Legend LeBron James, filling up in Michael Jordan’s shoes.
Family-oriented flicks like Luca, Ron’s Gone Wrong and The Mitchells vs. Machines, as well as animated sequels of The Addams Family, Monster Family, and The Boss Baby also fared well with the viewers.
The first film that will release in 2022 is the monster-comedy film Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, that had faced multiple theatrical delays in the last two years. Marvel Studios’ Morbius, the villain from the Spider-Man series, would be eventually released on 28 January 2022. Initially scheduled to be released in July 2020, the film also got hit by Covid-19. Jared Leto, the Joker from the DC Universe, would feature as the title character.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be released in March with Robert Pattinson donning the cape for the first time while Sam Raimi, who directed the original Spider-Man series featuring Tobey Maguire, will make his comeback to the MCU with Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as Dr Strange.
Chris Hemsworth’s Thor would be seen in Thor: Love and Thunder, while Dwayne Johnson, last seen in Jungle Cruise (2021), would make his debut as Black Adam for DC.
Similarly, Miles Morales would return as Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse(Part One) which is being eagerly awaited after the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
As far as the sequels are concerned, Sonic the Hedgehog and James Cameron’s Avatar top the list, while Chris Pratt would reprise his role as Owen Grady in Jurassic World Dominion.
The year 2022, would definitely be better than its predecessor as life is coming back to normal. With vaccines and boosters around the corner to decrease the horrible effects of Covid-19, people would surely be entertained in 2022.
Published in Dawn, Young World, January 1st, 2022