I’ve watched the Australian cricket team play in a number of cities and venues in Australia, and not only had I not sighted them at any of those venues in January, but I couldn’t recall many discussions about them.
Sure, we had postscripts of the summer of Marnus Labuschagne, but he did all his work in six or seven days.
I rang a globetrotting mate the other day to ask him if he’d seen the Aussie cricket team in his travels during January. I thought it a legitimate question considering he has watched the Aussies play all around the world, but alas he wasn’t able to get to India in the second week of January so hadn’t sighted them either.
Hang on a minute! Second week of January in India? Why? No, that can’t be right, surely?
Ever since the rise of one-day cricket in the 1970s the Aussies have interspersed or followed the traditional Australian summer Test series with ODIs. Then T20s were introduced and the Aussie summer holidays were filled with our elite cricketers in iconic arenas thrilling kids in yellow or green shirts with their exploits with willow or leather. No matter how the team may have struggled overseas when in rebuilding phases, you could be assured of morale-boosting home wins to relax the faithful.
Doom and gloom in the media, such as droughts, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and fires, were tempered by the exploits of Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke, Dave Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and so on.
Where’s that relief in 2019-20? The Aussies in white were seen for all of eight days in the Australian summer holiday period from 20 December to 31 January, with only four days in January. Four days! Thankfully they didn’t beat the Kiwis in three days, otherwise they would’ve played as many days in their own country as they did in India in Australia’s prime summer sporting period!
Australia doesn’t pull on the coloured clothes until 22 February when they play three T20s and then three ODIs against South Africa. Woohoo!
Oh, hang on, that’s in South Africa. What the?
So the Australian international ‘summer’ of cricket finished on 5 January? Well, yes, it did, because although the Kiwis will play their series of three ODIs and then three T20s in Australia, it won’t be until Australia’s football codes have started their seasons in March. To compound the crazy scheduling, the third ODI on 20 March will be in the coldest cricket venue in Australia, Hobart! Meanwhile 7 January – the fifth day of the SCG Test – until 21 February lay devoid of elite international cricket.
Cricket fans have to ask: was it worth it? Why was the whole period devoted to a domestic T20 competition and some apparent Cricket Australia-BCCI deal which had the team overseas in peak Aussie holiday period?
Prior to the 1970s the pinnacle of battles at the MCG in peak summer holidays was Victoria versus New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield, with the MCG packed to the rafters. A few days ago 13,000 spectators rattled around that stadium as a Melbourne and Sydney side played in the modern equivalent of the ‘crowd’s favourite domestic format’. In a final no less!
So, was it was worth it? Dismal attendance figures for the overblown tournament and ridiculously long finals series says to me that Cricket Australia shot itself in the foot and needlessly killed cricket fans summer.
ODI T20 series played in October to December and March might bookend Tests in Cricket Australia’s mind but their attendances have to show them that this scheduling is not making elite international cricket a priority in Australia’s summer.
The 2019-20 cricket season will be a strange footnote for cricket fans, especially those who don’t have pay-TV, when you consider they will have seen more of their team via satellite with the Ashes and Cricket World Cup in England in 2019 than in their own summer. Crazy!