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Is Australian cricket at a crossroads again?

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Roar Guru
5th May, 2019
2

Australian cricket is no stranger to controversy, and this has been the case since the first Indigenous side played against English teams in 1868.

From selection controversies to metal bats, from sledging to accusations of chucking, Australian cricket has always provided people with plenty to talk about apart from the actual scores.

Occasionally, though, a controversy becomes way more serious and has taken cricket in this country to a dangerous crisis or crossroads, where the game itself has been in danger of being seriously harmed.

The first crisis started with a dispute about the power that players had to appoint their own manager and this led to six notable Test players boycotting the 1912 tour of England.

Bodyline was another crossroads, not only for cricket but for Australia’s relations with Great Britain.

Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in the late ’70s was yet another.

Is the current situation with Australian cricket another crisis or crossroads?

Two leaders of the Test side were punished for both cheating and lying in 2018. The effect this had on cricket in this country was both instant and enormous. The issues have been dealt with and they’re both back playing, but is that the end of the matter?

Steve Smith

(AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

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Cricket Australia moved quickly to try and change the approach to the game so all cricket in this country needs to be played in a manner that upholds both the laws of cricket and the spirit of the game.

The men’s international team have been toeing a new line. They’ve still had a word to say, but the behavior that characterised our win-at-all-costs attitude has been markedly toned down.

The Australian team is going to be put under serious pressure to win both the World Cup and the Ashes.

Can the Aussies do so without reverting to that uber-aggressive approach that is best described as “ugly Australian”?

If a player loses his cool, what response will CA offer?

Obviously the response will depend entirely on the incident, but the previous administration under David Peever and James Sutherland had no trouble sweeping ugly matters under the carpet.

The new regime must act both quickly and decisively if an incident happens. In saying that, the board must not make knee-jerk decisions because the media is in a feeding frenzy.

How does CA ensure sides don’t revert to that ugly behavior in years to come?

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How does CA get into clubs and stamp out the behaviours that hallmark grade cricket?

How does CA make sure the win-at-all-costs mentality does not arise in the board again?

It’s very clear from the review the board undertook that Pat Howard and others were at least as guilty in some respects as the players because of their ‘take no prisoners’ approach to the game.

To date, CA has been very quiet about how it intends to self-police.

CA, players and umpires have to make sure our game doesn’t slip back to the ugly Australian days.

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The benefits of playing fairly are obvious, but so are the penalties if things once again get out of hand.

Fans and sponsors will vote with their feet and kids wavering about getting involved in cricket will find something else to occupy their time.

Hopefully all concerned will go back to doing what Australians used to do best: playing bright, attacking cricket and winning or losing with good grace.