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Interpreting the most intriguing Australian cricket summer

Roar Rookie
6th February, 2019
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Roar Rookie
6th February, 2019
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Hindsight can be a wonderful thing.

Coming into this summer with all aspects of Australian cricket under the microscope, it shaped as a pivotal juncture in Australian sport.

While an honourable 2-1 defeat at the hands of an extremely motivated and highly-skilled Indian team was predicted by many, there remained a hopefulness that despite the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner that because we were at home everything would be okay.

It was not okay.

Australia were taught a Test cricketing lesson in patience, application and skill by Virat Kohli’s side; traits that once were the hallmarks of Australian cricket culture before the infiltration and proliferation of an ugly arrogance and antagonism which culminated in the events in Cape Town in March last year.

But all these things can now be forgotten, as the restoration of the natural order following the demolition of Sri Lanka in Brisbane and Canberra returned Australia back to winning ways.

In this country, winning clouds the memory.

It has been a summer that, following those shameful events back in March, couldn’t come quickly enough for Australian cricket fans.

And now that it has come and gone, it’s one where we’ve learnt much more about Australian cricket, its players, its administrators, its fans and its future.

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For starters, the Aussie team are all just really good blokes. Well, at least that’s the image broadcasters Foxtel and Seven have been desperate to restore.

From Tim Paine becoming an off-the-books commentator for Fox Cricket with his stump-mic larrikinism behind the stumps to on-field interviews and players spending hours post-game signing autographs for young fans, this team has become the most transparent international team in years.

Tim Paine

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

And more presentable cricketers keep the sponsors happy. It’s hard to imagine how the likes of Paine, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood could prepare for the heavy workload this summer considering the wealth of promotional work done for Cricket Australia’s major sponsors.

Which leads to the next observation from the summer.

Cricket Australia hasn’t changed too much. Despite the comprehensive cultural reviews and subsequent administrative changes including the resignation of CEO James Sutherland, the thirst for dollars culture at Cricket Australia is yet to show signs of ceasing.

With the new broadcast deal lining their pockets for the foreseeable future, Cricket Australia will reap the considerable financial benefits of the Indian tour which conspicuously omitted a day-night Test match and the opening Test in Brisbane.

A happy India means a healthy cricketing world.

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Speaking of cash cows, I believe the Big Bash is still going on? The expansion of the Big Bash League this season from 43 matches last season to 59 this year has been met with an unconvincing response.

While it provides consistent, easy-to-watch entertainment where the viewer requires little understanding of the broader context of the season – similar to American sports such as the NBA for example – and CA’s marketers will speak of the expanding demographic and outreach of the Big Bash into regional areas, the combination of an excess volume of games, declining crowds and perceived drop in quality due to the lack of international and national stars has led to many turning off this summer.

But don’t hold your breath for a shorter edition next summer.

What does require greater recognition is the WBBL. CA’s investment in and promotion of the WBBL must be commended, with the competition growing season on season to the point where the little sister may have thus far trumped the big brother this summer.

Despite the world’s best Twenty20 male players such as AB de Villiers and Jason Roy continuing to excite in the Bangladesh Premier League instead of the Big Bash due to the shorter competition and significantly healthier contracts, New Zealand’s female players forgo their own summer to travel across the ditch to play in the Australian version.

And why not? You’d be hard pressed to find a better finish than that of the Brisbane Heat’s final ball victory over the Sydney Thunder, but hours later that didn’t seem much of a challenge, with Alyssa Healy’s run out off the final delivery to secure a tie and the ensuing super over was nothing short of incredible.

The Heat’s successful last over run chase in the Final was almost a letdown considering the games before.

With the world’s best players available, the sky is the limit for the women’s game.

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Ellyse Perry

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

It could be said that this has been the most intriguing summer of cricket in recent memory. With so many questions and very few answers about the direction of Australian cricket leading into the summer, the debates within cricketing circles throughout the summer about where we head next is healthy for the game.

To quote one of Channel Seven’s most played advertisements from across the summer, we have reached our turning point.

Lessons have been there to be learnt, on and off the field for both players and administrators. As we sign off on another summer down under, we can only hope a few have been listening.