The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

10 wooden spoons don't begin to represent South Australian cricket's failures

Ryan Harris celebrates a wicket during his playing days. (AFP PHOTO / Luigi Bennett)
Roar Rookie
23rd March, 2015
13

The last time South Australia lifted the Sheffield Shield, John Howard had been recently elected for the first time, and hero to moustache wearers and beer drinkers everywhere David Boon had just retired from Test cricket.

It was the stuff of script writers: the last-wicket pair of paceman Shane George and leg spinner Peter McIntyre held on for just under an hour on the fifth afternoon to deny a star-studded Western Australia line-up.

McIntyre did a half fist-pump, half jig. The crowd jumped the fence and ran on the field. They cheered. Autumn days in Adelaide are routinely spectacular, but this one was even sweeter. I know. I skipped lectures to be there.

That winning South Australia side had solid players: Tim May, Greg Blewett and last-hour hero McIntyre had represented their country. It was May’s last game and on that final afternoon he received a standing ovation from the members after batting for a hour and making a duck.

Jason Gillespie and Darren Lehmann would later get baggy greens, and Blewett and McIntyre would wear theirs again as well.

SA first-class cricket has lurched from one state of ignominy to the next over the following 19 seasons, with 10 wooden spoons to show for it. But what about the other role of domestic cricket sides – to produce Test cricketers?

Can the pain of perpetual failure at a state team level be offset by the contribution to the greater good?

Australia’s next Test after that Shield final was a one-off Test in India, our first visit to that country for a Test in 10 years. Since that Test, 91 players have represented Australia, including 75 debutants. Not surprisingly most are New South Wales players and unfortunately but not surprisingly, the fewest were playing for South Australia at the time of their highest honour. Eleven players have slipped on the baggy green while also having a SACA cap. However, it is actually fairly even between states (New South Wales aside, of course).

Perhaps the quality of SA’s fewer players is shown by a larger number of Test matches which they played? Sadly that isn’t true either. SA lags well behind as well with only a total of 177 Test appearances. South Australia also supplied the most one-Test players.

Advertisement

Not only does New South Wales produce a lot of Test cricketers, but they play a lot of cricket once they’re there.

The following table shows the number of Australian Test cricketers representing each state since April 1996 and the total number of Tests played (where players have represented more than one state, only the number of Tests played while representing that state has been included).

State                Number of players        Number of Tests
New South Wales 31 982
Queensland 14 326
South Australia 11 177
Tasmania 12 252
Victoria 16 274
Western Australia 15 444

As every researcher knows, if the data doesn’t much the intention, then express it as a rate of something.

So as SA has a relatively low population, the number of Test players per capita makes things look better. Well not much, thanks to Tasmania – and yes, their record owes a lot to one R.T. Ponting.

But where is SA’s 100 Test veteran to rival Tasmania’s Ponting, Queensland’s Matthew Hayden, New South Wales’ Glenn McGrath, Victoria’s Shane Warne or Western Australia’s Justin Langer?

Over the 19 seasons, coaches have come along with all the right words and then were inevitably terminated after yet another season of failure. Captains have been appointed and unceremoniously dumped.

Alongside this has been an array of bizarre recruitments, including three overseas would-be saviours. Players have left. Mark Cosgrove went to Tasmania and has won two Shield titles. Michael Klinger was welcomed to Western Australia by Langer and is playing in the Shield final. On the opposite side is former SA teammate Dan Christian. One will be a Shield winner.

Advertisement

Mention Ryan Harris to any SA cricket devotee. As much as every Test wicket he takes is cheered, deep inside the SA fan hears ‘we didn’t offer him a contract’.

And here we are at the end of season 2014-2015, another wooden spoon, another captain dumped mid-season, the coach is gone, and there are no Australian Test representatives. There are already rumblings about another messiah coach being appointed. Players will come and go during the off season, there will be all the right words said, but it will be the same old merry-go-round.

Too many grade teams, too big a gap between first class and grade cricket, wickets too flat. Probably all true. But after 19 years of the same mediocrity, the problems are deeper than on-field and unless that off-field is completely overhauled, then the same results will occur.

And as one of Australia’s best songwriters wrote, “I’ve had a bellyful of livin’ on that same old merry-go-round.”

close