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HomeAustraliaRANT: Cricket Australia needs to rediscover its identity... FAST

RANT: Cricket Australia needs to rediscover its identity… FAST

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Last Updated on 5 years by Charbel Coorey

Image credit: AFP

Written on 5th November

“Elite honesty” came up against “elite performance” at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Sunday (4th November), and it made for difficult viewing for Australia fans (well, those who were able and decided to tune in).

Australia’s difficult 2018 continued with a heavy six wicket loss to a rampant South African side, but the result was only a small part of what was a disappointing day. And no, it has nothing to do with the crowd, which was cause for concern in some areas of social media.

Cricket Australia is the real issue here. It’s all well and good to have the chairman David Peever resign, but this organisation needs to communicate to its fans about what it is all about. Further, with Mark Taylor today resigning from his position as director, CA needs to have a good look at itself. Does it stand for fan engagement and the long term future of our game, or squeezing out every cent for its immediate gratification?

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On the evidence of this series, as well as recent events such as cancelling the Bangladesh tour, the latter seems to apply.

The lead up to the first match of the Australian summer was rightly met with discontent with much of the Australian public. Some suggested it was the least anticipated start to an Aussie summer in recent memory. After 48 years and 433 home ODIs, Free-to-Air TV coverage was put to the side, and the Perth ODI was only available on Pay TV. And that’s if you didn’t know it was available on the CA App (myself included). Fans were subject to emails and online instructions on how to watch the action. That’s not on.

CA’s social media team exposed to a barrage of disappointed fans. And rightly so. The performance itself, whilst poor, is just a small part of what was a disappointing day. In true Australian spirit, the team will come out stronger from what has been a tough 2018, but a strong focus on the basics is what is desperately needed. The talent is there, but CA needs to lift its game.

Currently, CA does not seem understand that fan engagement is critical to the future of the sport in this country. The long term vision should be taken into consideration when discussing these big TV right deals, which is unfortunately seldom the case. It is all well and good counting the big bucks, but at the expense of the game’s future? How will CA encourage parents to get their kids to take up cricket? This applies to me, as I fell in love with the game at a young age and started playing after watching countless hours of action on Channel Nine.

Summer was always about cricket. It was always associated with an “accessible to all” mindset, which has helped cricket to continue to thrive in Australia. There was nothing better than family and friends gathering around the TV and enjoying the cricket. Channel Nine was the only channel on TV when the cricket was on, and don’t anyone ever dare change it.

Now, if you don’t have Foxtel, you’d probably miss out on the action. Or, at least most of it, whilst watching it on your own on your phone. Where is the message of inclusion in that? What are CA doing to try position ODIs as a big event in this country? Australia’s performance was a good one to miss, but poor team performance and CA losing touch with its fans does not do the beautiful sport of cricket justice.

CA, it’s time to understand your audience.

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Again, this has nothing to do with the crowd at Perth. The attendance of 24,342 is actually quite reasonable compared to ODI crowds in the country over the last few years, especially considering it is an early November fixture. In South Africa’s tour of Australia in November 2014, just before the World Cup, 14,177 people turned up at the MCG to watch the action. 15,830 was the crowd at the SCG in that series, 10,853 in Canberra and then 10,939 and 9,322 at the WACA in Perth.

With the rise of T20, particularly the BBL, most fans would rather take the family to a short, sharp, action-packed BBL game. But, does that mean you put further nails in the coffin of ODIs in Australia, especially when winning over the public should be of utmost importance to CA? Moreover, fans in northern Australia were robbed of cricket earlier this year when Bangladesh weren’t considered “financially viable enough”, which adds to the growing belief that CA is just motivated by immediate gratification, with fan engagement coming second. The people up north deserve to see their national side more often, but CA didn’t understand that, still thinking about their pockets immediately after a $1.2 billion TV rights deal was landed. They are failing to see that engagement is an important investment, which will eventually see the money come in, in conjunction with the game of cricket thriving in Australia.

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Back to the ODI crowds. While they have been down, TV ratings weren’t. Fox Cricket on Sunday attracted just 133,000 viewers for the first session of the Australian summer, which then grew to 277,000 in the second session as South Africa romped to victory. How many fans actually knew the game was on? With the lack of Marketing by CA, you can’t blame them, and then there are many who just couldn’t watch the match. So, will CA, while counting their money, realise that the growth of our game is of utmost importance?

Compare this to the MCG match against South Africa four years ago that attracted 14,177 to the stadium. The TV ratings for that game, on Free-to-Air TV, attracted 968,000 viewers. The crowd wasn’t good, but the ratings were. People were still watching the cricket. CA has some serious thinking to do about its approach.

Also, it is very relevant to talk about the cringeworthy attempt to fix the cultural issue in Australian Cricket. “Elite honesty” has to be one of the most stupid things in history (even worse with Justin Langer’s explanation of it), and so too the Players Pact that puts focus on dreaming, smiling, sunshine and rainbows. Australia’s batting performance yesterday screamed of muddled minds and lack of confidence – two things that need to be addressed with a clear message of how to play cricket. We want to see a hard, but fair approach to playing, with the ultimate “dream” seeing our players adjust their game according to the conditions. With good prospects like Alex Carey, Australia have something to play with.

Shane Warne put it perfectly in commentary as South Africa were cruising. “Forget all the words, forget all the verbal diarrhoea and all that sort of stuff,” said Warne. “That’s all rubbish, seriously, it makes you vomit. You can write your 200-page document, you can have sports science and high performance and all that other ridiculous stuff. I think some of the stuff they’re worrying about is trying to look like they’re doing the right thing. You can’t forget what Australians are, their DNA, and that is hard, aggressive, positive cricket and then play fairly.”

“You can’t forget what Australians are.” That line sticks, and that line is what CA is not understanding. “Forget the public, fill your pockets” is my perception of CA right now. What also stuck was an interview by Adam Gilchrist to coach Justin Langer recently, where Gilly asked Langer what success looks like to him. Langer paused, had a long think and said something I can’t even remember as I zoned out. His immediate answer should have been “creating a high performance culture that enables winning and confidence, while being prepared to have anything that we dish out be dished back at us.” For such a brilliant, tough cricketer in his day, Langer’s response (or lack of), was as surprising as it was disappointing.

His long pause is exactly the concern with the cultural review. Playing with 100% commitment and aiming to win should be of utmost priority. CA needs to understand this, as well as giving fans the opportunity to engage with the national side. Until this happens, fans will continue to go further offside.

Here’s to a big improvement. Rant over.

Migraine Stop
Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has also been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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