It used to be that the Australian Cricket system was admired the World over for its ability to continually produce world class talent. The Sheffield Shield proving a conveyor belt for players pushing for a Test match place.
Ricky Ponting has publically stated that the Sheffield Shield is not what it was in terms of producing players.
Simon Katich has also been critical of the fact that there are no longer any experienced players floating around the state teams in the Sheffield Shield and even less playing in the State competitions. At the end of the ‘80’s and start of the ‘90’s it was not unusual for A grade state competitions to have test match players taking the field.
Katich also believes that the current scheduling is having an impact, with players suffering more injuries with more games crammed into a shorter period of time. Fixtures are now being pushed into October, November and December so that the T20 Big Bash can be scheduled in January. A tournament that makes money but is never going to assist players in the longer form of the game, and has even had an impact on how one day cricket is played.
The Cricket Academy does not appear to be having the success it used to have or the profile, does this mean that Australian cricket is in decline?
The scary thing is by winning the Ashes the English Cricket Board falsely believe that all is rosy in their garden when it is far from the case. A report is about to be published highlighting the lack of opportunity for talented Asian children in the game, and the heavy bias towards the privately educated to come through the talent identification programs.
There is no doubt that Cricket has suffered as a game as the world in which it is played has changed. The pace of life is so much faster than it was as at the dawn of the new century. Time is a key factor in people’s lives. Work demands more of our time than ever before with mobile phones, I-phones, Blackberry’s I-Pads and laptops. Cricket has suffered because of this. The commitment to the game has come under pressure from everyday life forces, be that playing it, watching it live or on television.
The big mistake that has been made by the administrators is to try and cram in more games; which ironically are necessary if the players are to be paid what they expect to be paid.
There is too much Test Cricket, it is no longer as easy to keep abreast of who is playing who around the world, ask most cricket fans and no longer can they tell who is playing who in the next series. There is too much meaningless one day Cricket as was witnessed this summer in the series between England and Australia; a best of three series or best of five at most is all that is required.
T20 is a prime example of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Too much T20, because it is fast food entertainment that brings in quick money, is sadly killing the game as a whole. It should always remain a novelty game within the big picture.
In Western Australia, the WACA competition has grown to 16 teams as the city and population has grown, but it is questionable, and the Western Warriors performances in recent years would back up the argument, whether growth has in fact meant more talent coming through. It has in fact diluted the talent pool and lowered the standard of competition.
Cricket needs to regain its balance, and that is not just a challenge that Cricket Australia, the WACA and its counterparts need to address but English cricket as well, possibly even the game worldwide.
The talent identification processes need to be re-visited to ensure that the net is widened and the game becomes less of a ‘closed shop’ than it has become in recent years.
Cricket used to be a game that reflected what was right in life. In recent years that has become questionable as the game itself has gone in search of the quick dollar, and those running it have allowed the game’s values to slip.
Let us hope that in this fast changing world we see changes for the good of the game applied quickly and the ethos that is Cricket restored.