May the industrial action never end

Ben Pobjie Columnist

By , Ben Pobjie is a Roar Expert


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    It all feels a bit hollow now. A bit anti-climactic.

    I mean, I guess all good things have to come to an end, but there was always a little piece of all of us, I think, that thought maybe… maybe it could last forever. Absurd, I know, but such is the way of hopeless romantics.

    But things are just that bit less exciting now, aren’t they? Now that the battle is over, the smoke is cleared, and the fight between CA and the ACA is over. Now that everyone has to go back to – sigh – playing cricket.

    It’s not that I don’t like cricket. I do. In many ways, the main reason I watch cricket is because I like it. But after you’ve spent so long watching a truly gripping, tense contest, a battle royale of iron wills and titanic competitors… it’s a bit of a letdown to go back to hitting balls with sticks, isn’t it?

    When the pay dispute was on, we felt alive, didn’t we? The air crackled with electricity. We knew we were witnessing a clash for the ages, something we’d tell our grandkids about.

    There was so much to love about the dispute. The thrust and parry of duelling ambit claims. The administrators, launching ferocious assault after ferocious assault on the players’ line. The players, giving as good as they got with steely defiance and the never-say-die attitude that has made Australian cricket a byword for doughty industrial action for more than a century.

    We knew the stakes were high, and that’s what gave it all such an intoxicating frisson. How can the coming summer of cricket – which is, with all due respect, just a game – live up to that kind of spectacle?

    The fact is it can’t, and it’s not fair to expect it to. When the cricket-loving public has tasted of the delights of industrial conflict, it’s absurd to think that cricket, the “sport”, can carry the burden of expectation.

    It is, therefore, time to rejig the international cricketing calendar to provide for a three-month window every year in which the Australian playing group can engage in furious disputation with the administration.

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to organise. Just specify that, say, the first day of May each year marks the start of Strike Season, when players down tools and demand a better deal, and the CA hierarchy declares the players greedy and unrealistic.

    It will begin with superficially-constructive talks that drag on a little longer than anyone expected. It will continue with mutual barrages of press releases.

    As the Strike Season continues we will enjoy the traditional attractions of the event: angry tweets from David Warner; op-eds declaring that everyone is at fault and it all could’ve been resolved months ago if only there were more op-ed writers involved in negotiations; and finally, the emergence of Steve Smith from his cosy underground lair, upon which he will declare whether he has seen his shadow, thus determining whether we will have six more weeks of mediation.

    Australian Test skipper Steve Smith

    (AAP Image/Carol Cho)

    If future seasons live up to the promise of the inaugural one – and there is no reason to suppose they won’t, given each successive year the combatants will be more experienced, more battle-hardened, and have had more time to develop new skills and tricks – it’s going to be a glorious time.

    The public will sit with bated breath as the two sides plunge into meeting after meeting, crashing their thick, smooth skulls together again and again and again and finally emerging to tell everyone that they’re fairly certain they see a path forward if only the other guys stop being such douches.

    And at the end of it all, the ritual Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, that most impishly-titled of documents, given that nobody really understands what it is.

    All sides will agree that somehow, everyone got what they wanted, another round of op-eds will be written asking why the hell they couldn’t have figured this out from the beginning, a tour that nobody wants to go on will be reinstated to the schedule, and we begin the exciting countdown to the next Strike Season.

    The Test, ODI and T20 seasons will finally assume their rightful place: as support acts to the main game of hard-nosed pay negotiations. It’s pretty amazing it took us all this long to realise what sport is all about.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing 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 watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.