(Disclaimer! – I drafted this piece before the Cowan, Hussey and Clarke explosions. I still think South Africa was hardly done by early on but yes, now … not so much!
And again, for any remaining Michael Clarke haters out there – three double centuries in a calendar year … yeah, I think he was the right man for the job – tattoo, sports cars, ex-girlfriend-supermodel notwithstanding…)
If there’s one sport that seemingly evokes little passion nowadays, it seems to be our former favourite pastime of the summer.
I had a couple of interesting interactions with friends over the weekend about cricket, which surprised me because most fans only get into the cricket when it’s the Ashes. But aside from that one major rivalry – and it is a great one! – there appears to be an ever-dwindling passionate fan-base.
Our interest may be piqued when we square off against India, but can anyone tell me who we played in last year’s One Day Series? Where did we finish in the 20/20 World Cup? Who knocked us out? Did we even win the last 50 over World Cup?
Cricket seems to be the sport to have on … when there’s nothing else on. Need something in the background at a bbq? Chuck it on the TV. Need a night to have an excuse to get together with your crew? The 20/20 matches are great value … all three of them.
Look, we have a great series taking place right now, make no mistake about that. Yet we had not played two days of international matches and even this series has been tarnished in multiple ways –
1. Make it a real contest!
South Africa is the number one test nation in the world. They are primed and ready to challenge us on our own soil like no other team since … well ok, since the Poms gave it to us in the 2010/11 summer.
And how long does this series go?
3 measly tests.
I know you’re all salivating at the prospect of the mighty Sri Lankan cricket team packing out the MCG for 5 straight days – even without their chucker / world record holder – so forgive me for suggesting that when we have a world juggernaut on our doorstep, perhaps we could convince them to stay longer than 5 minutes!?
2. Um … it might rain!
Cricket continues to be the laughing stock for a global audience that cannot comprehend something taking 5 whole days, let alone getting to the end of those days and there being no result. None. A draw. Move on to the next test.
In a world where interest in shorter, faster, better forms of entertainment, ie 20/20, is booming, it’s absurd that we can slap the faces of the casual and the ardent fan by not rewarding them with a result.
Yet that’s exactly where we found ourselves, I repeat, less than two days into the international summer of cricket!
Day 2 of the First Test was completely rained out at a venue that Australia never loses at. I repeat. Never. South Africa had us on toast and they missed a potential opportunity to put us away and claim a significant psychological milestone, all because they’ll run out of time?! To quote from my new favourite Muse track – ‘madness’… (Sidenote – the Australian batsmen then went ballistic on a flat deck, so that ended the pro-South African argument, while on the other hand potentially preventing the Aussies from chasing an unthinkable victory…)
It is implausible not to have an entire back-up day, allowing for the outside possibility that it might possibly rain in November in the tropics of Queensland, or anywhere else in this freaking country for that matter!! Seriously…
3. Is this a contact sport?!
For the non-cricket fans who have (somehow) managed to stay with today’s piece this long, the 12th man in cricket is only there to field, bring cold drinks and make coffee.
So when South African gun JP Duminy (somehow!) tore his achilles in the warm down after Day One, South Africa immediately became severely disadvantaged. Cricket remains one of the few sports where injuries can dramatically affect a result in an adverse manner.
Most of the great sports that I follow have deep benches – basketball, soccer, baseball and the NFL, enabling player rotations on the basis of strategy and player health. But the knockout argument here is that even the Australian Football League makes allowances for injured players.
If Andrew Demetriou, of all the ‘my way or the highway’ leaders can open his eyes and provide contingencies for game-ending injuries, surely we can convince the Sub-continental powers-that-be to be similarly open-minded.
I’m not saying that the 12th man option isn’t open to cunning strategic misuse, but better that than teams being crippled when 10% of their roster is unavailable and unable to be replaced.
I wish I had those points in my head when I looked at my friend with a blank stare when she asked me why cricket was, in fact, so backward.
To the above three you could add all kinds of problems with the game, from the institution’s reluctance to fully embrace technology, the fact that there’s not a tournament to adjudicate the best Test nation and the ridiculously slow pace at which they play, to name just three.
Oh, and on the latter, there’s this direct quote from a friend who texted me about the state of cricket and it’s unnecessary length –
‘Constant delays. Batsmen taking block so they know where middle stump is. It’s behind you! Pattinson calling for sawdust in his first over. Hang on, there’s movement near the sightscreen. Stop the game.’
Apparently it took 17 minutes to bowl the first 3 overs of the match; almost a ball a minute. That’ll get the young ‘uns in.
The way forward
Cricket is one of our national pastimes, like it or not. Head to a backyard or a beach in the summer if you need further proof. We are crying out for reasons to become passionate as a nation again about a sport that is in our blood.
Stars like Clarke will help (haters aside), but the game needs to meet us halfway.
- Quicker games.
- Using technology to ‘get it right’.
- Removing the myriad of excuses that players use to slow the game down.
- Having something to play for.
- Allowing for the unexpected, like injuries during warm-downs (!!), and
- Giving us what we want sometimes, like an abundance of exciting 20/20 games, when players do what we love and try and hit it out of the stadium every freaking ball!
These are only a few of the options available to the game’s administrators. Surely it’s an overly politicised sport; but which one isn’t?!
I’m looking at our current score of 5/550+ a lot and thinking that we might actually have some potential in this great game!