Two bizarre things happened in sport this week. First Novak Djokovic bought the entire Serbian supply of donkey cheese. Then if that wasn’t weird enough, a Twenty20 cricket tournament broke out in the middle of the Test cricket season.
The Big Bash League started on the weekend, with Shane Warne’s form and crowds both way below expectations. Warney probably flopped because it’s a little late in his career, but the crowds failed because the tournament is much too early.
The cricket calendar is upside down this summer, due mainly to South Africa’s desire to play at home on Boxing Day. So what happened was, we hosted them early, then found ourselves with a two week gap between the third Test in Perth and the start of the Sri Lanka series.
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It’s time Australia started taking Twenty20 cricket seriously. We begin our ICC World Twenty20 campaign this week ranked ninth, wedged between Bangladesh and Ireland on the official ICC rankings. We meet Ireland first up and they could very well beat us.
It has become nothing short of treasonous in recent years to admit you enjoy watching T20 cricket, let alone to suggest that Australia should dedicate more resources to the super-abbreviated form of the game. But that’s exactly what we should do. T20 cricket at the international level should be given more primacy, more credence and more money.
At the moment, T20 is an ever-growing cash cow for Cricket Australia. But the domestic Big Bash league gets all the marketing money, while the national team is almost an afterthought. The T20 squad’s two week camp in the lead-up to this major ICC-sanctioned tournament was the first time we’ve ever had a proper build-up to a major T20 tournament. No wonder we’re easybeats at international level.
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You come home after a media-free long weekend away, you plough through the papers piled on your doorstep and a theme emerges: unanimous outrage over the axing of Australian opening batsman Simon Katich, beginning with Katich’s own hissy fit. Well, maybe his dumping was an injustice. All the same, it doesn’t give Katich the excuse to yowl like a kitten whose tail has just been stepped on.
These are seriously weird times. Only last weekend, Australians marched in the streets to demand the right to be taxed. Then this weekend, a senior federal minister and a lawyer spoke out in defence of a cricketer whose contract was not renewed. Who knows what surprise is in store for next weekend? Perhaps someone on Australia’s Got Talent will actually have, you know, talent.
Katich, of course, does have talent. You don’t score 4,188 runs in 56 Tests at an average of 45.03 by getting lucky. But by no stretch of the imagination was he one of the greats of Australia’s dominant era, or what might politely be termed the transitional era thereafter.
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Cricket is the new footy. That’s the implicit message from Cricket Australia, who yesterday expanded the Big Bash state Twenty20 competition to eight teams, including two each from Sydney and Melbourne.
Traditionalists, of course, are spitting the kind of bland old-fashioned flavourless chips they always spit when anything changes in their goldfish bowl.
But they can no more stem the tide of Twenty20 cricket than they can force people to the opera en masse instead of to the iTunes store to buy the latest Lady Gaga “song”. And that’s not agenda pushing. That’s fact.
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News today from The Daily Telegraph today that Australian cricket vice-Captain Michael Clarke and sometime opener Phillip Hughes were out at Crown Casino the night before the disastrous fourth day of the Melbourne Ashes Test.
I am rather comforted by this news. Hopefully Clarke and Hughes were hungover throughout the Melbourne Test as it could go some way to explaining their rubbish batting.
Perhaps it would help the country if a picture emerged of the entire squad downing shots tequila and snorting lines ketamine in an Oxford Street club the night before the Sydney Test. We would be reassured as a nation that Australia’s awful performances this summer did not just look drug induced.
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