It wasn’t too long ago that the Australian Cricket team was unbeatable.
With the worlds best coaching, the best player development system and the best culture in terms of winning, it was difficult to see any reason why Australia’s dominance over the sport was ever going to be end.
When Twenty 20 Cricket came along, Australia dismissed it as a gimmick. It was a hit and giggle version of the sport that the rest of the world wanted to play. It was unpredictable, the longevity of it was questionable and there is no doubt that Cricket in Australia really had no idea how it should handle the game at all.
As Twenty 20 Cricket started to get traction elsewhere in the world the Australian Cricket team started to look at how it might adapt to the shortest form of the game. At first they used what was basically their One Day Cricket team. Go out there and try to slog the ball. This method wasn’t too bad, but the team wasn’t dominating as it had done in the Test and One Day arena.
At that point Cricket Australia started to look at Twenty 20 Cricket “Specialists”. These were players that could normally smash the ball to all parts of the ground, but who couldn’t crack it for a start in One Day Cricket and who were no where near Test Cricket level. The result of this change in team selection policy brought slightly better results, but it was still far from the domination Australian Cricket was used to having over the rest of the world.
Then the Indian Premier League hit…
Over night players with a certain skill-set that was suited to Twenty 20 Cricket became millionaires. Alongside them, a number of Australia’s One Day and Test stars also cashed in with huge money deals to play in the IPL tournament. The money on offer was too good to refuse, and you started to see players being drafted into the IPL from Australia’s state competition.
The clear pathway to the top of Australian Cricket and the riches being a Test Cricketer for Australia has been shattered. Now you didn’t need to work your way through club Cricket, State Cricket and then force your way into the Test team to become a highly paid player. If you could slog the ball and bring some excitement to the field, even if it was just for a few over, you could five yourself earning over $1 million few a few weeks worth of play in India!
Overnight the focus of Australian cricket changed.
Cricket Australia was caught on the back foot. The put in place a Twenty 20 Cricket competition of their own involving State teams. They then scrapped this and brought in a franchise based Twenty 20 Cricket competition in the Big Bash League that came with huge contracts of its own and a massive amount of promotion.
The shortest form of the sport became its cash cow. The only problem was that the Big Bash League in Australia was losing millions of dollars. It was being subsidized by the profits Cricket Australia made from Test and One Day Cricket.
For generations Cricket in Australia was focused towards the 11 men that walked out in the Test team. When One Day Cricket started to require specialist players, that focus was still there on the games elite. Even when Australia was at its very best in both Test and One Day Cricket, between the two teams there were at most 15 players that would chop and change between the sides.
With Cricket Australia’s policy to invest so much time and effort into Twenty 20 Cricket, that focus has completely gone. We now have dozens of players that can say “I play Cricket for Australia” across the three forms of the game. Hell, we don’t even have a single Australian Captain any more!
Why would we be developing Test players when all of the money is being spent on Twenty 20 Cricket? Why would a player develop the skills to play a five day match when they can earn just as money money by playing a few good overs every so often?
Australian Cricket has completely lost its way. There is no focus what so ever at any level. From the administration of the game, through the coaching ranks, down to the players themselves, everyone is just caught up in a whirlwind of games, most of which mean absolutely nothing!
When you take away the player development pathways, when you take away career long battle that earns you the right to wear the Baggy Green, when you take away the prestige of representing your country….why would you expect anything less than what we are seeing right now?
Cricket in Australia needs a complete change from top to bottom. Today Australian coach Mickey Aurthur has been sacked. Michael Clarke has stood down as a selector. The changes need to go much further.
Cricket in Australia needs to ask what it wants to focus on over the next ten to twenty years. There needs to be a focus within the game once more.
I am a huge sports fan and yet I couldn’t tell you who won the last Twenty 20 Cricket competition because quite honestly, I don’t really care about Twenty 20 Cricket. One Day games are great to watch, but at the end of the day it is all well behind Test Cricket, which is what the majority of people really care about.
Australia could one day end up dominating Twenty 20 Cricket, it wouldn’t count for anything if we are a joke at Test level. Cricket Australia needs to make Test Cricket the priority once again. It needs to focus the playing talent of the country back on the 11 best players we have. No separate teams. No rotation policy.
The worrying thing is that these changes will take a long time to take effect. In the current sporting market in Australia that is completely dominated by Rugby League and AFL, Cricket needs to worry about remaining relevant to people.
Australia can try to win all the Twenty 20 Cricket games it likes, but if we are going into Ashes series hoping to avoid a a whitewash, people will not value our national team or the game itself at all.
We need our focus back. We need to aim to be the best Test side in the world. Nothing else matters.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com