Cricket Australia need to get the balance right

Cricket Australia need to get the balance right

How different things could have been.

Australia’s men’s team should be one week away from starting their home T20 World Cup campaign right now. Local nets should be full of kids imitating Glenn Maxwell or David Warner’s scoop shots and switch hits while the media crows about Australia’s chances of going back-to-back after the success of the women’s side last summer.

Instead, Sheffield Shield got off to its usual low-key start this week as sports fans’ eyes stay glued to the footy finals. At the same time, at Cricket Australia headquarters in Melbourne, administrators battle hard to ensure that India’s tour of Australia somehow takes place.

There is no doubt about it, cricket is happening in the shadows this October – even more so than usual.

Granted, Cricket Australia finds itself in a difficult position. With the logistical havoc caused by COVID-19, the sport has to fight hard to keep itself financially ticking along. At the same time, it has to continue to maintain the goodwill with the public that it worked so hard to claw back after Sandpapergate.

It’s an unenviable task.

Stuff around with the schedule too much with meaningless matches or cash-earning mini-tours, and you risk raising the ire of the cricketing public. Simply go through the motions and you could cop a huge financial loss.

As always in cricket, good balance will be the key this summer for the game’s decision-makers.

For instance, as an Aussie cricket fan, it doesn’t sit comfortably with me that Australia is reportedly fighting so hard for this coming Indian tour.

The T20 Men’s World Cup cancellation and the hasty replacement through the IPL in the United Arab Emirates has clearly been in the best interests of Indian cricket. Due to the rescheduling, the next T20 World Cup will now take place in India in 2021 while Australia has the chance to have another go in 2022.

Yes, Indian cricket money runs the game, but it’s seldom been as blatant as this.

Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli

If the India tour to Australia is proving that hard to put together, maybe try another option to just make sure cricket happens at all? Set up a three-Test series with New Zealand inside a Trans-Tasman travel bubble that already exists, and ensure it goes ahead with limited crowds.

English cricket reportedly copped a huge financial hit this last summer, close to 200 million pounds, despite most of their key matches going ahead. Their “high-cost, zero crowd” Test series against the West Indies for instance, may have lost a lot of money, but it showed a lot of courage in my opinion.

At the depths of the pandemic, it was a wonderful tonic for cricket fans around the world to be able to watch Test cricket from England.

Thankfully, with Justin Langer in charge of the men’s team, we have someone involved who believes in maintaining the integrity of the sport and the baggy green. His comments this week to Gerard Whately on SEN made it clear he doesn’t want the team to be split up for concurrent white and red ball tours in New Zealand and South Africa early next year.

His concern is that due to COVID-19, squads for both tours will have to be huge and the knock-on effect for the Sheffield Shield competition will be a considerable loss in quality. Not only that, he argued, but the Australian cricket team, in theory at least, is one unit and it shouldn’t be spread out across the globe.

Of course in the hyper-professionalised era of sport we now live in, making both of these tours happen (in order to earn the respective broadcast dollars) is technically possible. But is it the right thing to do?

Langer’s honesty on this topic is the sort of common sense that I have yearned for in Aussie cricket for some time. Let’s hope administrators can adopt some of Langer’s trademark poise throughout this coming summer.