Australian cricket needs new sightscreens

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Michael ClarkeThe one day cricket match last night between England and Australia was, in my opinion, a sham. At times, like when Strauss and Trott were marooned at the same end, it was high farce.

Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood in 1953 about characters in a fictional village called Llareggub. Spelt backwards this says “buggerall” and the current ODI’s between Australia and England are just that.

The games are meaningless as a contest and have become glorified practice matches for both teams. Cricket Australia should have scripted the one day series to conclude prior to the announcement of the World Cup squad.

The 15 man squads were announced on the 18th of January for next month’s World Cup on the sub-continent and none of the selected players will want to cruel their chances. Expect, at best, only 50% of the normal intensity when these traditional foes battle it out.

Spectators, who have already bought their tickets, will not get a refund if they choose not to go. Can you imagine going to a concert featuring your favourite band and find they are only going to jam. Or Pavarotti deciding he would only warble because he wanted to preserve his larynx for the Command Performance.

You cannot blame the players for coasting. It would be silly for someone like Lee or Tait to go full throttle. They are already on the plane and will save their intensity for a week before the actual World Cup starts. Professional sport is about peaking at the right time.

Federer does not mind losing an exhibition match two weeks before a grand slam. The All Blacks are a different kettle of salmon. They want to win every game they play. Perhaps that is a reason why they so often fail to take the major prize at the Rugby World Cup.

But, coming back to the cricket, we saw more of the Clarke waltz in the quicksand and cat-calling to the fieldsman at thirdman to move finer, in the game at Hobart.

This is the game that Tony Greig proclaimed on TV last night to “have rated the pants off the competition”. I question the objectivity of the Channel 9 commentary team on anything to do with the health of the game.

Of course they would spruik the enthralling contest unravelling before our naive eyes. As the moronic underclass of viewers, how could we possibly doubt the veracity of all these ex-captains?

The commentary team also extolled the virtues of Australia’s spinners comparing Hussey and Doherty, maybe fatuously, to Laker and Bedi!

However, I suspect eminences like Benaud and Taylor would secretly have grave misgivings.

And this is not just in Australia. All the matches being played after the 18th of January are nothing but revenue raisers.

In fact players have everything to lose by going full pelt. Pietersen seems disinterested. He missed last night’s game. Tendulkar has gone home from South Africa. The Kiwis and Pakistanis are going through the motions. Soon the West Indies and Sri Lanka will try to refine the box-step before they embark on the waltz of the World Cup.

The only players going for broke in Hobart were the two not selected in either of the World Cup squads. Chris Tremlett was the best of the England bowlers and Shaun Marsh, with his two tempo hundred, showed why he should have been included in the original squad. That he is there as cover for Michael Hussey is scant consolation

Yesterday’s game at the SCG, in front of a sell-out, had the intensity of a pillow fight. It had the canned suspense of cold baked beans. The players showed the enthusiasm of an impending visit to the dentist. Collingwood on being bowled by a Doherty no-name ball was the epitome of resigned indifference.

The fact that Australia won a low-quality game with overs to spare only underlines the vacuosness of this series.

If this series had been played just after the Sydney Test as a five match series it would have made the competition for World Cup spots more intense. All Cricket Australia had to do was sacrifice the two Twenty20 matches.

If Cricket Australia was really concerned about the fans and desperately wanted to give them a full-fledged contest they would have picked a squad of players NOT going to the World Cup. These players like Maddinson, Christian, Hodge, MacDonald and O’Keefe would then have had a chance to show everyone what they are made of. It may also have galvanised those selected for the World Cup to perform or perish. This would also have woken England up and the winners would have been the fans.

Personally, I have no interest in watching players going through the motions. This is about as interesting as hanging the clothes out to dry.

The World Cup schedule was known two years ago and in spite of this administrators have scheduled matches that only benefit broadcasters and sponsors.

Meanwhile cricket languishes as a joke.

Reviews have been promised and there are calls for Charlesworth to take over as coach. (I championed this in August last year.) Steve Waugh is being spoken of as a mentor and Shane Warne has been suggested as a Chaplain.

All this misses the point. It should be taken out of the hands of the current administration. They should have no say in the direction of our cricket. They have failed so why give them a second chance?

I suggest a review panel of Ric Charlesworth, Ron Barrassi, Tim Sheens, Frank Farina and Allan Border.

They should come up with a plan that should firstly restore the eminence of the Shield, and secondly pick a core group of 50 players that can play proper Test cricket. The shorter forms flow from this core group. The best short form players are those that play proper cricket shots.

Think Tendulkar, Sanggakara, Pietersen, Ponting, Kallis, De Villiers, Bell and others of their ilk. Yes, some of these players will unfurl an exotic shot like the switch-hit or the ramp but essentially they hit straight and play with technique. Not the Warners that McKenna (CA’s marketing guru) calls great players.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, features a country called Llamedos and was obviously inspired by Dylan Thomas. This spelt backwards says “sod ‘em all”.

And that my dear reader is what Cricket Australia is saying to you.

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