Everyone who loves cricket will have their favourite players. These are the ones who really make you sit up and pay attention when they come in to bat or come on to bowl. They have something intangible that you simply enjoy watching.
Scandal after scandal ripped through the Australian cricket team’s 2018 season. Here’s some of the lowlights.
CAPE TOWN CHEATING SCANDAL
Former Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland described it as a ‘WTF’ moment. He wasn’t alone. Fans around the country were asking ‘what, how and why’ as they woke to footage of Cameron Bancroft slipping a piece of sandpaper down his pants after trying to illegally alter the ball at Newlands. CA conducted a thorough investigation and slapped Steve Smith and David Warner with 12-month bans while Bancroft was suspended for nine months. It was the start of major upheaval.
NEW CAPTAIN, NEW COACH
Tim Paine, having seriously considered retirement a year ago while struggling to get a game for Tasmania, was installed as Test captain after Smith’s shameful dismissal. Darren Lehmann resigned in tears shortly after watching footage of Smith, Warner and Bancroft’s arrival in Australia. South Africa cruised to a 3-1 series win and Lehmann was later succeeded by Justin Langer.
NEW CEO, NEW CHAIRMAN
Sutherland’s 17-year reign ended when he announce his resignation soon after signing a $1.2 billion broadcast rights deal. CA chairman David Peever attempted to dig in, even after an independent report delivered a scathing assessment of his organisation’s “arrogant” and “dictatorial” culture, then stood down after being given the tap on the shoulder by Cricket NSW counterpart John Knox. Earl Eddings replaced Peever, while new chief executive Kevin Roberts fired executives Pat Howard and Ben Amarfio.
CA, PLAYERS’ UNION MAKE PEACE
Last year’s bitter pay dispute destroyed the relationship between CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA). The ball-tampering scandal created further disharmony, with the union making it clear they felt Smith, Warner and Bancroft were harshly treated. The ACA’s public campaign to soften the bans shaped as another public row but it was dismissed by CA tactfully. The two parties are now working together on some of the recommendations of The Ethics Centre’s report.
WOMEN SHOW THE WAY FORWARD, YET AGAIN
For all the headlines about cheating, misdeeds and a cultural malaise, it’s worth noting that Meg Lanning’s team continued to set a brilliant example, on and off the field. Alyssa Healy’s sensational tournament with the bat was the highlight of Australia’s Twenty20 World Cup win in the West Indies, completed with an eight-wicket victory over England in the November final.
VICTORY FOR PAINE AND LANGER, FINALLY
Some 21 players donned the baggy green during Australia’s six-Test winless streak that stretched almost 10 months; the highlight of which was a dramatic draw in Dubai secured largely by Usman Khawaja’s marathon knock. The breakthrough victory came recently in Perth. It was the team’s first Test triumph under Paine and Langer, and levelled an enthralling four-Test series against world No.1 India.
WINTER IS COMING, SO TOO THE WORLD CUP AND ASHES
There is plenty of cricket to come this summer, most notably Australia’s Tests against India and Sri Lanka, but a marathon tour of England looms large. Australia will defend both the World Cup and Ashes in 2019, with Smith and Warner’s likely reintegration shaping as a fascinating subplot. Australia haven’t won an Ashes series in England since 2001, highlighting the enormity of that challenge. Australia’s white-ball worries were laid bare in this year’s seven-match ODI losing streak, the team’s worst in that format.