It’s the tournament that used to be a central point in the Australian cricketing summer.
But in the past few years, the Australian domestic 50-over competition – now known as the Marsh One-Day Cup – has fallen quite dramatically. What used to be an eye-catching and crowd-drawing month-long block showcasing the best of Australia’s domestic talent has endured a lack of talent, exposure and excitement in the past few years.
The scheduling of matches can partly be blamed, with games last year crammed into a tight four-week block during a period already filled with AFL and NRL finals, around various grounds that people would’ve barely heard of, let alone attended.
What once was a tournament many people were passionate about, where the next generation of Australian cricketing talent flourished and where state-versus-state rivalries were on full show, became a non-event.
It consisted of a gimmicky series of matches after which teams who finished as low as sixth in the group stage could still go on to claim the title. Cricket Australia fixtured the tournament so early into the cricketing-summer that by November people had forgotten who’d been crowned champions. And as international squads were chosen later in the summer, form in the domestic limited-overs competition was meaningless.
Instead, players were picked based on a few impressive cameos for their respective Big Bash League franchises, more often than not those stepping up to international duties underprepared and simply not good enough.
It came as a shock to CA powerbrokers that last summer’s performances of Australia’s 50-over team declined significantly, in turn suffering 2-1 losses to South Africa and India. Of course, since then, the team has enjoyed varying successes, highlighted by the overseas victories over Pakistan and India earlier this year before crashing out of the World Cup semi-finals at the hands of eventual champs England.
After this tournament, a stark reality was revealed to all of us back home in Australia. We needed to find a way to recapture the talent, quality and depth of our national 50-overs that has won us five World Cups, and this task started at the domestic level.
That shouldn’t surprise many people. It’s clear that the significance of the domestic one-day tournament has diminished over the past few years. That’s why following outcry by past players, commentators and the wider public following last summer’s abomination, a change of tournament structure has been welcomed by the Australian cricketing community.
Instead of more knock-out matches than group-stage ones, each state will now play a total of seven regular fixtures, playing most opponents once, and some others twice. The top two teams will deservedly face off in a final on November 26.
Another major change to the competition is the breaks between blocks of games for the commencement of the Sheffield Shield first-class competition, both in mid-October and early-November. Not only will this replicate the change of formats that those selected will have to face later on in the international summer, but will more importantly give players a chance to find form and impress selectors closer to the actual call-up dates.
However, perhaps the most large-scale and encouraging change for this season is the scheduling of more meaningful games at locations that will draw greater crowds and deliver greater exposure to the cricketing public. Fixtures will now be held at iconic cricketing grounds around the country such as the MCG, SCG and the Gabba, giving greater scope for fans to attend and players to perform at their best.
Importantly, though, responsibility ultimately falls with us – the general cricketing public – to help reinvigorate what should be known as the number one domestic 50-over competition in the world. By attending games, watching them on television and ultimately increasing exposure, we hold the key to making this tournament thrive once again.
This change should benefit all players in the domestic cricketing landscape. It makes their dreams one step closer to reality.
This competition can prosper, as long as we embrace it.