Alex Massie

Australian Cricket Sells Its Soul

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Hard though it may be to imagine, it is entirely possible that Cricket Australia (as they style themselves these days) are even more cloth-headed and reprehensible than their counterparts at the ECB. At the very least they give a more than passable impression of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

If press accounts are reliable indicators, Cricket Australia is a shameless organisation. If they weren't such a collection of Ocker Moneygrubbers they might not have arranged the recent meaningless, pointless, set of one day matches against Sri Lanka that have hampered their players' preparations for the Ashes.

Nor, had they a clue, would they have insisted upon naming the squad for the first test a full ten days before the match is due to start. Naturally this nonsense was the stuff of some idiotic marketing department. And here's Mike Atherton* (£) noting that:

Like the Poms, Cricket Australia has turned to management-speak. Whereas Steve Waugh took his team to Gallipoli, Cricket Australia employs a corporate team-building company called Afterburner. It uses ridiculous phrases such as “pre-missions”, “debriefing”, “task distractions” and “flawless execution”. At great expense, it encourages Ricky Ponting’s men to sit around and speak openly at the end of a day’s play to each other without recriminations. Straight talking from Australians used to be a given.

Has it really come to this? Apparently so. Then there's this dismal prospect, flagged-up by Gideon Haigh (£):

This summer in Australia, furthermore, you may very well witness this event's last efflorescence: that is, five five-day matches as a season’s centrepiece. If Cricket Australia has its druthers, by the time England is scheduled to return in 2014-15, international fixtures will be in competition with, if not overshadowed by, a supranational T20 competition. 

What do they care of cricket who only care about 20/20? Very little.

As if to answer that question, the Sheffield Shield table at Cricket Australia's website argues that the venerable plate is contested by these teams:

RTA Speedblitz Blues

DEC Bushrangers

PKF Tasmanian Tigers

XXXX Queensland Bulls

West End Redbacks

Retravision Warriors

Grotesque. Who or what are the "Retravision Warriors" or the "DEC Bushrangers"? What an insult to the second-greatest domestic competition in cricket. What a cheap way of diminishing the importance of the Shield. What a betrayal of great traditions and all the glorious players of the past.  We're accustomed to Channel Nine's ceaseless attempts to flog naff "memorabilia" but this sort of thing takes commercialism to a new low. (Yes, the game needs money. But, yes, there are standards and decency to uphold too.)

As always, the way to tell the public that your "product" is rubbish or not worth caring about it is to show that you don't value it either. For all that cricket's administrators talk about the primacy of test and first-class cricket their actions tell a different, more depressing, story. They haven't a clue and, worse, do great damage to the thing they profess to love. 

*Atherton is now by some distance the best of the daily correspondents and since the Times has Haigh too, this is probably the best argument there is for signing up to Rupert's subscription.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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