Greg Chappell has seen almost everything. He is a respected member of the former Australian captains club but is one of the greatest batsmen Australia has ever produced.
Chappel was also the former talent director of Cricket Australia, and his recent proposal to revamp the Australian summer is reasonably straightforward. It breaks down into roughly four parts.
First, start the Shield season in late August or early September in the Northern Territory or Queensland so the climax of the season is in November or December, and potentially add another team to the competition.
Second, have the one-day competition held either on weekends throughout the season or in its own season in February or March.
Third, the period after the Big Bash League should be reserved for Australia A games against other A sides.
Fourth and finally, implement a draft to better spread the talent around the various states.
His proposal would radically transform the ‘gentleman’s game’ into more of a franchise-based system. Let’s look at each proposal and its pros and cons.
Firstly, beginning the Shield season in late August or early September has the advantage of being able to play the entire competition in the front half of the year. It allows for both bowlers and batsmen to build up workloads and set themselves for what would be a very long summer of cricket under Chappell’s plan.
However, playing the Shield that early on would clash with the back end of the AFL and NRL competitions, particularly if one of the Queensland NRL sides is doing well, with people even less likely to go to Shield matches than they are currently. This also creates no incentive for further red-ball cricket after the BBL hiatus and would have the disadvantage of many exceptional state cricketers either playing at a lower level for their clubs or sitting around with little to no cricket.
Secondly, holding the one-day competition on weekends throughout the season would work just fine. It brings in the fans and allows for a more streamlined competition. Holding it in the post-BBL period in February and March has the advantage of giving the competition its own airtime without interruption.
However, the downside to all of this is that if being held on the weekends, the one-day matches could potentially have few to none of the Shield players participating for fear of burnout before the Test summer. If held in February and March, the administrators run the risk of boring cricket fans with more and more and more cricket.
Thirdly, playing more Australia A matches is always a win regardless of when they are played. These days it seems that Australia A is used for Test hopefuls to get into some form before the Tests or for up-and-coming players to get game time at the highest level.
The disadvantage of this is that, were the A series to be held after the BBL as proposed, the temptation would be to play Test players as there really would not be much else for them to participate in. Also, Greg Chappell has not stipulated whom they would play against. Presumably it would be against other A sides, but this is unclear.
Finally, the draft system. On the surface a draft system would create a Marx-like effect of spreading the talent around the states and creating a more robust competition. In reality a draft system simply disadvantages those states that have excellent talent identifiers and robust junior pathways.
Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, arguably the three best sides, have well-developed pathways into their Shield sides. D’Arcy Short, Josh Philippe and Hilton Cartwright cannot even get regular game time for the Western Australian Sheffield Shield side. Likewise, Brendan Doggett and Billy Stanlake have struggled to get consistent game time for Queensland, as have Jack Edwards and Jason Sangha for New South Wales.
Cricketers have for the past 150 years moved from state to state to find their next opportunity. Adam Gilchrist moved from New South Wales to Western Australia, David Hussey from Western Australia to Victoria and Allan Border from New South Wales to Queensland, just to name a few. If cricketers are really serious about getting consistent games, they will move states to make that happen. Nic Maddinson is thriving in Victoria. Peter Siddle had another great season in Tasmania.
Greg Chappell’s wideranging proposals contain the seeds of many good ideas, but the draft system and the proposal to play the entire Shield before the BBL are problematic and ought not to be incorporated. Adopting the best parts of his strategy will help cricket move forward as the sport of choice in the summer.