WEL­COME FROM JIM MAXWELL

ABC Cricket - - CONTENTS - Jim Maxwell AM

Is cricket still Aus­tralia’s na­tional game? Footy fans might dis­pute this claim, and at­ten­dances at AFL matches, plus strong tele­vi­sion and ra­dio au­di­ences, demon­strate Aussie rules’ rag­ing pop­u­lar­ity. Folk­lore has it that our foot­ball was in­vented to keep crick­eters fit in the off­sea­son. And it had plenty of indige­nous in­spi­ra­tion. To­day all our ma­jor cricket grounds are com­mer­cially sus­tained by the bounc­ing pigskin, so that 19th cen­tury cricket child has out­grown – prob­a­bly can­ni­balised – its par­ents.

It’s a good yarn for the pub or morn­ing cof­fee, but cricket is cer­tainly our sum­mer game, as the “sand­pa­per” folly in South Africa con­firmed. The sense of out­rage, loss of re­spect and be­trayal was pal­pa­ble. The pun­ish­ments handed out by Cricket Aus­tralia were harsh, and may well have been in­flu­enced by some in­dig­na­tion ex­pressed in Can­berra. CA was as much at fault as the mis­guided play­ers and team man­age­ment, be­cause they en­cour­aged a win-at-all-costs men­tal­ity.

From the mo­ment Matthew Wade re­placed Pe­ter Nevill in the Aus­tralian team, the dogs were off the leash. David Warner was given too much li­cence to be preda­tory, and Steve Smith lacked ma­tu­rity and vig­i­lance to curb him. I think Smith will re­turn as a stronger char­ac­ter, but Warner’s fu­ture is at best un­cer­tain. It will be a test for the new coach, Justin Langer, who pur­port­edly has a no-d---head pol­icy. At best, Warner is a con­trary per­son­al­ity, who needs to re­dis­cover his form hav­ing had his stumps rat­tled in South Africa.

So as the pro­mo­tion of a “new era” un­folds this sea­son, Aus­tralia needs to re­build its team and rep­u­ta­tion. A tough task with an ac­ci­den­tal in­ter­reg­num cap­tain, and a bat­ting order that has more po­ten­tial move­ment than Smith at the crease. A big watch on Aaron Finch to be in­flu­en­tial.

But back to that main theme of Aus­tralia’s na­tional game – cricket is unique. How many sports are as di­verse, as adapt­able as cricket? Test matches, 50 overs, T20 are the main vari­a­tions with fringe dwellers such as six-a-side and Last Man Stands emerg­ing spo­rad­i­cally. The devel­op­ment of the women’s game, pri­mar­ily in the lim­ited-overs for­mats, is sig­nif­i­cant to cricket’s fu­ture. And now that the ICC is at last de­fy­ing the self-in­ter­est of some of its mem­ber­ship and em­brac­ing the gospel power of the Olympic Games, cricket will have an op­por­tu­nity to thrive in a world be­yond its Com­mon­wealth bound­aries.

On the beach, in the car, or just chill­ing, switch onto the sounds of sum­mer on ABC Grand­stand. Your friend on the ra­dio. Ed­i­tor-in-Chief, ABC Cricket @jim­max­cricket

Join the Grand­stand team on ABC ra­dio, Grand­stand Dig­i­tal and abc.net.au/cricket

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