Does anyone care about Australia’s ODI loss to England?
Australia national cricket team's players look on as England players celebrate. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS
A year before the Ashes, in a format nothing like that which the Ashes series will be played in, with a team consisting of, at most, half the players who will actually play those Tests, Australia has been well beaten.
And Kevin Pietersen says the English have struck a powerful psychological blow against the Aussies.
I generally try to avoid using the phrase “Bitch, please” to accomplished international batsman, but I’m sorely tempted.
I mean it’s possible that the Australian team will be so mentally shattered by this 4-0 one-day defeat that come the 2013 Ashes they will be blown apart like so much white-clad jelly. But I think it’s very unlikely, because surely Michael Clarke and his men, if not absolutely Mensa-standard, are at least bright enough not to care more than slightly about this series.
The real question is, why don’t I care? I usually care almost to the point of self-harm about every sporting endeavour involving the green and gold except for the International Rules (because I said “sporting”).
And it’s not that I wasn’t hoping Australia would win. I was, of course, and I was disappointed they lost. But only barely. Just a quick shiver of disappointment and then I moved on. And moving on after Australia gets whitewashed is not at all like me.
And it’s not that I hate the 50-over game, as so many seem to. It’s not as explosive as T20, or as sophisticated and varied as Test cricket, but it’s a worthy middle-ground, still capable of thrilling finishes and epic struggles. One-dayers have always delivered their share of classic cricket, and they still do.
But somehow this English series had precious little value to me. It was on the other side of the world, late at night, of course, which never helps. And I guess it could be sour grapes, but I doubt that even if the series scoreline was reversed anyone in this country would have been hurling confetti and crying “Top of the world, Ma!”
But beyond that, it just didn’t feel…real.
I mean what were they doing over there? Five one-dayers a year before the Ashes? What did it mean? It felt like a weird, fantastical exhibition series – it’d be a surprise to see that Wisden even kept a record of it. To tell the truth, I’m no longer even sure it happened.
Because the thing about 50-over cricket is, it doesn’t thrive on its own. It is not a cactus, living off the scant moisture of the desert, isolated from other plants. It’s more like, I don’t know, a plant that doesn’t do it all on its own. A jungle tree or something. It needs companion trees.
It has to live in symbiosis with other forms of cricket, or it blows away on the wind. So maybe it’s like a dandelion or something? Anyway look, not important. Point is, ODIs can’t survive on their own.
A one-dayer needs to be part of something bigger than itself. The World Cup, great – it’s a proper tournament with a proper champion at the end, with the added allure of minnow nations that show us players we otherwise don’t get to see, and offer the ever-present chance of a delicious upset. The World Cup is fine and dandy, even if the last couple have featured something of a tactical error by the ICC in the decision to have the pool stage last over 36 months.
Likewise, a one-day series as part of a Test tour fits in fine. It’s all part of the completeness of the tour experience – the one-day series sits neatly alongside the Tests, complements them. As part of the mighty clash of two nations, it’s only right that their encounter should include the full gamut of formats, to determine the superior in all of them. A one-day series adjacent to a Test clash makes perfect sense, and indeed a Test your without one-dayers would seem strange and frightening, like Shane Watson without a soft-tisse injury.
But if a team is just going to zip-off overseas, play a ODI series, and zip back, it seems so pointless. There’s no larger context. A one-day series in isolation isn’t a long, satisfying innings. It’s a retired player whacking sixes into the crowd to provide entertainment in the lunch-break. It’s impossible to care about Australia losing 4-0, because we were too busy popping off to buy a hot dog.
So no, I don’t think England has inflicted a mental scar. Mentally, I’m not sure the Australian team was even present for the games. I think their bodies were there, while they astral travelled to the snowfields or something. If anything, we’re lulling them into a false sense of security.
OK maybe that was going a bit far, but there’s no doubt that one-day cricket, without any context, just doesn’t count for very much, and there’s no way to convince the average Australian cricketophile that it does. Give us ODIs attached to tournaments and series, or else leave it alone.
Also, it is very, very important that Kevin Pietersen never be right about anything.
Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian writing weekly on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys the frolics of Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms. Ben is also the author of the books Surveying the Wreckage, Superchef, and his latest, The Book of Bloke, available from Momentum Books.