WELCOME FROM JIM MAXWELL
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
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