Revisiting a cricket rant from Feb, 2011 – has anything changed?

Interesting to see what was happening nearly a decade ago – and what commenters were saying at the time.

 

by John Harms
first published Feb, 2011

 

On Monday morning, those who run Cricket Australia waltzed in to head office, bowed to the Bradman portrait on the wall (the one that’s just under the big Richard Branson portrait which has replaced that nice one of her majesty), grabbed the tabloid newspaper (no broadsheets for them anymore), and sat down in their leather chairs. They enjoyed their Starbucks latte, placing it on the coffee table between contented sips, carefully, so as not to spill any on the copy of Stephen Covey’s masterpiece which also rested there. They smiled to themselves. Going forward, they knew in their own hearts that they were continuing to execute the seven habits of highly effective people. Sunday’s Gabba result was further confirmation of it.

 

They picked up the newspaper. The glossy sports magazine fell out, landing face up and revealing Michael Clarke in his latest underwear label. “Ah, marketing is doing a fine job,” they said.

 

They savoured the sports pages, and were pleased with themselves: they had managed to make cricket the lead yarn again without needing to leak to the press something of Andrew Symonds as a dodgy fisherman, or related stories, or Matthew Hayden as a dodgy fisherman, or master chef. They read of the wonderful 4-1 One Day International series win over England, guffawing as they hit the newspaper with the backs of their hands, and nodding in agreement with the insightful cricket scribes who had reported and commented on the victory. I suppose that’s an appropriate reaction when you are reading yourself being quoted.

 

With the World Cup around the corner, they will be pleased. The test series is now an epoch ago. Not that there was anything for Cricket Australia to forget: from its own PR campaign, determined by the finest strategists and unerringly waged, we know that Cricket Australia performed admirably this test-summer, progressing the organization.

 

The national conversation would suggest that’s all a load of frog-shit. I don’t think I can remember a summer when people have talked so much about Australian cricket – not even during those mid-`80s debacles when we couldn’t beat New Zealand. Then it was about on-field performance. Sure, the test results this summer have been a catalyst for this discussion. Three innings defeats will raise an eyebrow or two among those raising their glasses in the local. But now I detect a lot more. This is about the state of the game, and more importantly, the direction of the game.

 

At the heart of the conversation about these matters is the frustration and disappointment that there is an ever-growing rift between Cricket Australia and the Australian people; or more specifically, between Cricket Australia and those who have loved the game all of their lives; between Cricket Australia and real cricket people.

 

Real cricket people – men and women – grow up with cricket. They play from the moment they can pick up a bat and ball: in hallways and backyards, at school and for clubs. Real cricket people have a shard of plastic from David Lloyd’s box wedging the radio dial to the ABC right through the summer. Real cricket people delight in measuring the length of pause between the catch-in-the-outfield and Richie’s first word of commentary. Real cricket people read cricket writing. Real cricket people know that there will be a day occasionally when two wickets fall for 313, and will find something to enjoy, even if it is the conversation with the cove sitting next to them. Real cricket people are sympathetic to the grass roots game. It’s as important as top-level cricket.

 

Real cricket people know and love the essence of the game.

 

Of course, this throws up the opportunity for a simple counter-argument for contrarians, and the money men. Terms like ‘essence’ are always open to interpretation, and discussion of them creates lively contest. But I think there are those who have a sense of what has made cricket wonderful, certainly in our own lifetimes. Indeed, a sense of what cricket is.

 

Sport always reflects the historical moment, and cricket is no different. The prevailing ideologies and understandings and the preferred approaches of the day, will always be observable in the cricketing moment – among administrators, players, and spectators. Test and other first class cricket emerged at a time when the cult of nation was supreme, in the Age of New Imperialism, when sport was seen as a way to assist the process of colonization, and also as a way of preparing young men for war. And so cricket was good and noble, as was rugby, and affirmed the widely held belief that Empire and country were worth dying for: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. The sense of duty and the sense that there was something greater than self formed an influential ideology.

 

Cricket has continued to be organized around the concept of geography – Test cricket for nations; county and provincial cricket; local cricket – and there has been little challenge. Recent ideologies – commercial, and individualist in their essence – have challenged that. And hence we have the IPL and T20 cricket – with its cattle auction. And its massive commercial reach and impact.

 

So the question is: how does this moment in Australian cricket reflect the society in which it finds itself? And, more importantly, are there enough critical minds at Cricket Australia to realize that to be carried along by the current of contemporary ideology – profit, marketing, bureaucracy, risk-management, managerialism – is to give the game over to forces which will advantage some (people will make decisions in their own interest), disadvantage others, and significantly tear at the fabric of the game.

 

Cricket Australia and cricket more broadly at the elite level is run by the money men; blokes whose office walls are full of MBAs. Decisions appear to be made on the basis of commercial parameters. T20 is smack-you-in-the-chops evidence of that.

 

To be a CEO in the western world in 2011 is to kneel at the altar of growth. And so cricket is seeking new audiences, and is winding up with patrons who have a cupboard full of knives (“But wait, there’s more”) and gadgets which either slice, dice and julienne, make your abs go rock-solid, or turn the bottoms of XXXX  stubbies into scotch tumblers. (Do you think 24 scotch tumblers would be enough?) It is not an exclusively new audience but there are plenty of old supporters who just will not go. Perhaps we will be colonized slowly.

 

And it is having an effect on how the game is played at other levels. Dan Christian going for $900,000 in the recent IPL auction may just be the worst thing that has happened to Australian cricket for a while.

 

The best thing cricket could do at the moment is to employ a cultural historian; and an anthropologist; and a bloke who plays thirds for his local side, is on the committee, and can be found on Saturday evenings, sunburnt and cramping in the arches of his feet, making hamburgers for the troops who have returned to the clubhouse.

 

This unlikely triumvirate of thinkers might create some perspective. At least they would convey the zeitgeist. And, in doing so, would convey a sense that real cricket people are feeling increasingly disconnected from the national side. No, let me re-phrase that, real cricket people are disconnected from the side. This is nothing to do with the manner in which the side plays the game – many watched Steve Waugh’s machine and hope it would play with more grace and joy. This is to do with the reality that increasingly we don’t really have a national cricket side, we have the players who represent the commercial enterprise which is Cricket Australia.

 

When I was playing third and fourth grade cricket for the University of Queensland in the 1980s, as delusional as it might have been, we had a sense that we were just five steps away from Test selection. That John Bracewell was ripping through the Australian top order on a regular basis probably contributed to our optimism. But, make a few runs in the thirds and you’re in the seconds, make a few in the seconds, and so on.

 

One of my own team-mates demonstrated that. When Peter Goggin turned up I batted him at No. 9 in the thirds (what a fine judge of talent I was as a skipper). Within a couple of seasons he was making runs for Queensland.

 

This wasn’t the motivation for playing the game – the love of the game was. But there was a strong sense of connection between grass roots cricket and the Test side. It was the top of the pyramid; a pyramid which had a broad base.

 

Now, it appears to those of us who look on from the outside, that Cricket Australia is very clubby, and separate. Aloof. It’s about talent-identification, pathways, contracts, and once you’re in, you’re in. You have the weight of a massive publicity machine behind you, telling the world how talented you are (so talented you can belt an old Granny for six – remember that ad), and digging the trench which lies between normal people (you and me) and the super-talented (cricketers and those who run the corporations which provide us with the very things we need to live). And what sort of career-administrator would drop someone thereby bringing into the spotlight his questions about his initial judgment?

 

 

Cricket reflects the corporate world in which we find ourselves; it reflects the commercial world more broadly; it reflects the world of bureaucracy; it reflects the world of marketing and public relations; it reflects the age of self.

 

Unless those who govern and administer understand that they are caught in this world, until they decide not to be (because that is where they come from) cricket will continue to be washed along in the gutter of neo-capitalism. Good decisions will not be made until the organization understands itself a little better. What is it?

 

Largely those who run it on a day-to-day basis are trained in this commercial world, they work in this world, and they take on the values of this world. Given their power and influence they are able to make decisions which best serve them (very much part of that culture), and they also tend to be decisions which favour the largest stakeholders: sponsors and advertisers, media rights holders, and so on. They move in these circles; they are recruited from these circles. They play the game which protects them.

 

They also want risk-free cricketers, because this protects them as well. Just as coaches and support staff do. They want cricketers who perform within one single standard deviation of the norm. The great cricketers are at the flat end of the Bell curve; they are three standard deviations away. Cricket lovers want the idiosyncratic, not the metronomic; the creative, not the dross of automatons. We want more tangle in our first-change bowlers; more K.D. Walters in our middle order; more Viv; more Thommo; more David Gower. We want art, not balance sheet, and the protection of well-paid, support staff intent on preserving their jobs. We don’t want areas and plans and processes (which don’t work anyway). We want cricket.

 

But, I digress. Let me put the brakes on the tendency to rant.

 

People see this. And the same frustrations they have about the ‘services’ provided by corporations, they are finding now in cricket. When you get (yet another) inaccurate bill from your phone company, the Cricket Australia brand is compromised. Rightly or wrongly, Cricket Australia has become your arse-hole communications provider, your arse-hole insurance provider, your first class arse-hole bank. It is just Another Big Organisation, and it is run like Another Big Organisation.

 

The cultural historian and the anthropologist might find it difficult to convince Cricket Australia that it really has become Another Big Organisation. But they will anticipate the Big Organisation’s defence: “That’s just the way it is,” Cricket Australia will say. Or worse, “We have no choice: this is the way it has to be,” or “This is the twenty-first century”.

 

The cultural historian will point out that organizations and enterprises have choices.

 

All organizations do, and all the big sporting enterprises do. Some handle it better than others.

 

Some of that is to do with structure. Cricket Australia doesn’t really have to answer to too many people. Certainly not the public.

 

The AFL has a corporate-style structure: a Commission which governs, and an executive which administers. The Commission represents the clubs. But there is still a link to us punters, because there is a significant membership base – about 500,000 memberships are sold each year. Now, members have very little access to decision-making (compared with years long gone) I know, but the AFL certainly gets a sense of the prevailing atmosphere, which it can then ignore or act on. It’s not run like the people’s game, but somehow I remain connected to it.

 

I don’t feel connected to top-level cricket anymore.

 

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie7. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. like it J Harms! Many of your thoughts are covered over a tea break first thing mondays, and your views are very much representative of the afforementioned cricket community. Mind you ,your the first I have seen bring up the future career oppotunities for our younger anthropoligists!

  2. Ian Syson says:

    Good rant John.

    That granny ad really gets to me. It makes the cricketers look like arrogant cruel bullies.

    I don’t really get off on international cricket any more — but I saw/was involved in four games on the weekend. Each of them was a fantastic thing to be a part of. On Friday night I saw a terrific young batsman out of form get his form back and score a century off about 30 overs. I saw an U12 team have its first win for the season (without losing a wicket) and a brand new female umpire take her first tentative (and flawed) steps. I saw our senior 4ths team take its opposition apart. I saw an U14A team bowl and field magnificently and intelligently for a very comfortable win.

    I guess I’m weird but all the joys of cricket were to be had locally and for free. If we look after the grass roots the top of tree can either become relevant to those roots or float off on its own hyper-professional cloud.

    Cricket lovers are lucky in a way because the game is fascinating at any level (as long as the teams are matched) whereas some sports live and die by the quality of the play.

  3. johnharms says:

    Ian

    I take that position also – and at a much broader level. It drives me philosophically: that those with whom you interact (and do all the things you love doing and are meaningful to you) are the key.

    I have tried to make my books, at one level, about my MCG (Heroes Park in Toowong, or No. 4 at UQ), my Wimbledon, my St Andrews and so on. However I cannot escape the joy that elite sport has given me and the meaning it contains for me – despite the rubbish.

    But the rubbish is getting harder to ignore.

  4. Ian Syson says:

    Which one was number 4? The one next to Union college?

  5. JTH – I’ve just finished reading “First Tests” by Steve Cannane. The book had a few problems but the stories within it were mostly interesting reading. The prevailing theme was that in the past anyone had the opportunity to play for Australia, but the demise of the backyard and the structuring up of the game is making that harder and harder. As players get distanced from the elite game perhaps the spectators do too.

    The problem I have (ignoring the whole fascinating debate about neo capitalism and what I call empty socialism) is that not many cricket matches have much meaning anymore. The Cornflakes Cup, the 20/20 Big Bash, The 50 over world Cup, the KFC whatever – who gives a f…

    I have even heard discussion that the ICC is/has contemplated a sort of world cricketing draft to even up the competition across the globe (sound familiar?). That way blokes not making their national side could go into a draft and get picked up by Zimbabwe. Ludicrous and terrifying. But it would probably be calculated to make heaps more money.

  6. A nice distillation of where the game is at occurred at the ‘Gabba on Sunday. Brett Lee bowled a front-foot no-ball. The TV commentators duly informed viewers that this meant Ian Bell would have a free hit the next ball, meaning he could not go out.

    Meanwhile, at the ground itself, the PA was too busy belting out the Chicken Dance Song or some soulless pop song to inform the crowd of the rule. Ian Bell skied a catch to point and the crowd went wild, thinking Lee had taken another wicket. When it became evident that Bell was not out they started booing, and didn’t really have a clue of what had just happened.

    Now that’s disconnection.

  7. afl is the same john.

    I can take or leave most elite sport, I’ll certainly still watch the best of the best though providing its on free to air and at a time convenient to me.

    The ashes and oz open finals fell into those categories for me.

  8. Dave Nadel says:

    Excellent piece John. I am tempted to edit the typos, print it off and get my sports studies students to discuss the implications.

    Listening to ABC Grandstand last weekend I heard a chilling piece of information. In the course of reporting on the Women’s Test between Australia and England one of the ABC commentators informed the listeners that it was the only remaining Test in Women’s cricket. South Africa, New Zealand etc. play no women’s test matches and Australia and England only play against each other. Everything else in women’s cricket is One-Day or T20.

    Is this the future of male cricket also?

  9. lee donovan says:

    Well written John but I suspect if Australia were still dominating we might not be having this discussion .A few short years ago no one was bagging Cricket Australia or selectors etc.The fact is our superstars Gilly,Warney McGrath etc have gone along with many others . The well is dry at shield level .Remember when we boasted guys like Siddons,Law,Hodge,Lehman and others who couldn’t get in the side but they kept the pressure on. Cricket Aust has always been full of old blokes sipping their scotches in overstuffed armchairs but while the team is ticking along nicely nobody cares

  10. I’d be happy if they just stopped Michael Vaughan telling US!!! to become a betfair Australian. It’s offensive on many levels but I suspect the marketers thought issuing the challenge was something the average Aussie might rise to. I am Australian which means I don’t need my natioanlism questioned, I don’t have to bet if I don’t want to and I take offence to being baited by a Pommy. But what annoys me the most is how often we have to listen to it.

  11. Spot on. Cricket Australia does not own Australian cricket, we own Australian cricket.

  12. The ACB is like the Ringling Bros. When the circus rolls in they need to have the cash registers ringing. When you look at how poorly the domestic comp is supported they probably feel they’re not really alienating too many. Where they really achieve is at the gate with 2 ZIPPER rule. Now there’s a piece process devoid of any common sense.

  13. #9 Not sure, Lee. But I take the point. I think various Almanac articles by a range of contributors have picked up on some stuff that registers noticable change. The sheer volume of advertising at the gorunds being one thing. I know you can get chickeny things from the Golden Arches for $2.95 – it’s one of the things I will take from this summer. IT was forever on the sight-screens.

    I would say that more than ever this year Cricket Australia has been seen as Another Big Organisation. And that commercial considerations drive decision-making. I reckon you can pick that in recent decisions, not the least of which is their compulsion to include and highlight T20 cricket, and having included it to present T20 matches as they do.

    It is also worth talking to grass roots cricket people who are doing it tough – struggling to make enough cash to pay local govt costs etc while the elites do very well thankyou very much.

    And at a cricketing level, there are less and less moments when top players play Shield cricket and club cricket (unless you are Mitchell Johnson learning to hit the mown bit again).

  14. I. Lamb (Aust), Not sure you can get stuck in to Cricket Australia for the Betfair ad. However, the two zipper rule was a highlight of the summer. Can’t remember: were you a victim? And that would have been a Gabba rule as well. Either that or they learned very quickly by Adelaide where you could zipper to your heart’s content.

  15. Andrew Starkie says:

    CA is blinded by the gold in them thar hills. No vision, no direction.

    Or maybe we could liken CA to the usually dependable, faithful husband and father who has lost his mind over the new secretary at work. Or even Kevin Spacey in ‘American Beauty’.

  16. Rick Kane says:

    Or, AS (#16), maybe CA has a Sidney Mussberger from The Hudsucker Proxy with a brilliant business model.

  17. CA’s direction is spelt out with a refreshing lack of ‘corporatise’ in their Annual Report. Their goals are worthy:
    1: Reinforce and celebrate cricket’s place in the Australian community
    2: Thrive at the elite level
    3: Substantially increase participation in cricket
    4: Grow the financial resources available to invest in the game
    5: Work efficiently in our federal system

    They clearly are not performing well in some of these areas. In the federal system that exists, its up to the states to rattle the cage as they represent the members. If the states aren’t up to it, then the clubs have the power to act at state level. A bit cumbersome, but that’s what we’ve got in the absence of a large membership base like in the football codes.

  18. #18 thats spin at its worst.
    Its a mission statement that noone ever rates or judges. If it does get seriously challenged the bloke/fembloke who wrote it gets the tijuana and a new set of gobbledegook is entrenched to protect the suits. The current CA is staffed by people who dont give a tinkers about grass roots anything.
    It seems that profit forecasts are more relevant than batting averages. They only get away with it because they can spin anyting any which way. Tonight there were a lot of empty seats at SCG…predicted CA response tomorrow….”Sydney fans stayed away last night in respect for their northern brothers who are facing such terrible hardships yada yada yada….”

    If I had the chair I would make sure I had something to sell to the masses rather than selling out to the marketers. I would take less and return more to the grass roots by way of ownership of the game [ie ensure that a 20yo playing District 3rds actually believes he can play for his country]. As Redgum sang a long way back “And if thats being Commo, then its Commo where I stand…” [or something similar]

  19. Peter Flynn says:

    Thanks JTH,

    Great article.

    I share this disconnect. It’s awful.

    Next summer and beyond really worries me. The likely downgrade of the Shield. The ‘APL’ with accompanying ‘draft’ or ‘auction’ and razzamatazz.

    Andrew MacDonald has warned us. If, for example, he’s contracted to play for Perth for say 8 weeks, is he going to play Shield cricket for Victoria or for WA?

    I suspect CA is happy for the Aussie Test team to be mediocre and deficient in proper technique (e.g. poor placement of the back leg when facing pace bowling). As long as T20 goes gangbusters, they’ll cop ‘exciting’ cricketers that’ll struggle to cope with tough Test match conditions.

    Sad.

  20. Peter Schumacher says:

    I totally agree with comments being made re the commercialisation of Australian cricket at top levels but let’s be aware that we were flogged by the better side, we were just not up to it.

    What pisses me off completely though are many of the morons of the “Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie Oi Oi Oi ilk;(if I hear that once more I swear that I will puke), who wouldn’t have the first idea that they were being exploited. Are they the “grass roots” supporters we are supposed to care about? Oh and by the way “Mexican Wave” enthusiasts are another bore that we can do without.

    Whilst I am having MY rant I’ll say one thing about the Barmy Army. The too were crass and crude probably as well but at least at times there was genuine wit shown.

    My point therefore is, we reap what we sow at least as far as some supporters are concerned. Let the “grassroots” show some real appreciation and respect for the game.

  21. Pardon my distant ignorance, but what is the “2 zipper” rule?

    If you really want to see a disconnect, you should come to Abu Dhabi for the FIFA World Club Championship. 6 clubs representing each of the continents. The Australasia/Pacific region was represented by a club from PNG. There are a few lead up games to find out who will play against the European and (South) American clubs in the semi-finals which are a shoe-in to play the final. The final is then played in front of a crowd of about 20000 many of whom are the loyal supporters of their clubs coming in for what they probably believe is a meaningful tournament. The stadium can hold 60000 plus. Yet, if you read the papers and watch local TV, you would think it was the most amazing thing on the planet. Most locals either don’t realise it is on til it is finished or are so fed up with free tickets being foisted on them can’t take it seriously. FIFA on the other hand seem to think it is a wonderous event given that the echelons (upper and middle management) get a nice junket to the UAE at a time when it is a bit chilly in the Northern Hemisphere…

    CA clearly has some work to do!

  22. johnharms says:

    Gus

    In a stroke of genius someone at the Gabba or Cricket Australia decided that you could only take bags in to the Gabba if they had one zipper. Very few people where aware this bull had been provalimed from the Vatican. Security was busy directing patrons to a small cloak room (‘tent’) which was chockers with multi-zipped bags. Punters were furious. The line at one stage went from the Stanley st gate to the Wast State school.

    This on top of the rule that you could only take a bag in that could fit under your seat. My 1950s cylindrical tin esky was no chance.

    JTH

  23. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    I find myself agreeing with Dips #5, shock-horror, that the amount of cricket played defuses meaning. In the late 70’s and early 80’s winning a one dayer against the West Indies truly meant something and was to be celebrated.

    Back then there was no internet or cable so the coverage was somewhat limited to the Australian summer and the Ashes in England every four years. I have no doubt that his whetted the appetite for the contest for the true cricket fan.

    The game and most sports have taken advantage of infantile advertising since the turn of the 20th century. In 1912 we were told to ask our Grocer for ‘Harper’s Oatmeal’ because “Footballers need their oats”.

    I have cigarette cards from the 1930’s featuring Bradman and Ponsford. They seem quaint now but could you imagine Ponting or Clarke spruiking a pack of Winnie Blues today? There would be an outrage.

    There were also a number of lame ads in the 70’s and 80’s for McDonalds, XXXX Beer, Aerogard, Jelly, Tomato Sauce, Nutri Grain etc that are not that different from today. Has nostalgia tempered our temerity? The main difference is that we view them through multi-media rather than just the prisms of television and radio.

    Benson and Hedges sponsored cricket until the 1990’s. How much more unethical can you get in this epoch? KFC V Betfair? So it’s not ok to pack an artery as long as we empty our wallets?

    As for elitism, maybe it was more elitist when the whole country had to compete for 12 Test positions.

    Maybe different forms of the game allow opportunities to exist where they did not before. If I couldn’t get picked for a Test side yet was able to make a million in a year for 20/20 I would take it. Does that make me a mercenary or a realist?

    Since the beginning of commercial TV we’ve had the ‘Datsun Classic Catches’, the ‘Sidchrome Super Test Team’ and the Benson and Hedges International Cricketer of the year.

    To this day VB is a major sponsor while alcohol is the biggest killer on our roads and responsible for numerous social problems.

    Perhaps imagined past utopia clouds our judgment, but I am not naive enough to believe that any sport at the highest level looks after its bank balance first with the fans a distant second.

    It is just that we are bombarded with it from a number of different mediums and this makes the level of sensory absorption harder to deal with.

  24. G’day Mark

    Your response came just hours after the birth of our third child. So apologies for the slow response!

    Thanks for your reply to my rant. Those goals are worthy. But goals are goals, and practices are practices.

    My rant comes fromt he perspective of an observer on the outside. The point that I was trying to make is that to my eye (on the basis of the mediated evidence, and direct conversations I’ve had with other fans) there is a strong sense in the community that Cricket Australia is not doing these things. It looks like it has lost a sense of perspective, and again to my eye, that is a something faced by so mnay organisations (commercial in particular) for whom incremental change has resulted in a cultural shift – may be even unwittingly. If unwittingly, I imagine Cricket Australia would welcome the critique.

    I think there is also a division in thinking between many of those who are involved in professional sports administration and those who play and watch the sport. I think sports administartors start to think like sports administrators, because like all of us, they need to look after their own interests, which in simple terms is to preserve their own position. And that may direct decisions a particular way. I think an awareness of this is key – maybe this is an elemntal issue in sports admin anyway??

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this complex matter.

  25. Phil #24 – If I were you I wouldn’t admit to agreeing with me. Puts you in the lunatic fringe.

    You make a fair point about cricket perhaps being more elite in past days when the whole country tried for just 12 places. Now the opportunities are plentiful. However the opportunities to play cricket (any sort of cricket) and make a good dollar don’t necessarily reconcile with what the fans, players and lovers of the game want.

    In a way being an administrator would be a very difficult job. On the one hand you are responsible for the financial health of the game (no money = no future. just look at basketball), but on the other hand selling out the culture of a game just for the dollars is a slippery slope. I think that the last few years have seen too much emphasis on the former. AFL is in danger of going the same way.

  26. Phil and Dips, firstly, thanks for your kind greetings on the birth of Evie Grace. The Handicapper and younger daughter are doing very well. Their father is already under the pump.

    I really must be an old commie. RE cricket generally, the opportunities have always been plentiful, and remain plentiful. That is, the opportunities to play cricket. because if you love the game, you’ll play the game (where circumstances permit). Yes, the opportunities to play professional cricket are increasing, by comparison to the old days.

    But that’s not why most people play the game. My point is that that is the mindset of Cricket Australia – that there is such concentration on the top. Or there appears to be.

    And the discourse is obviously having an effect, that we start to believe that this is the only cricket that matters.

    I am with Ian Syson on this: that my locla cricket matters most, and will matter even more as meaning is diluted at the elite level. (Although I’ll still be taking an interest in it – it will become a matter of comparison)

    Cricket Australia can re-calibrate.

  27. JTH – I take your point and largely agree. Sadly I don’t think CA is Robinson Crusoe. Everything is being dumbed down to within (as you say in your article) “one single standard deviation from the norm”.

  28. Thank you for the 2 zipper clarification. I guess that means my punk rock bondage trousers will have to be cloak-roomed. Not sure who will be the biggest loser there…

    On the bright side, in the mid-80’s I smuggled 48 cans of XXXX in to watch a 1 day game at the Gabba in a large, yet 1 zippered duffle bag. With some ambitious stacking techniques, (I worked as a roadie for a few years), I reckon you could get pretty close to that lot comfortably under a seat. With strategic location of frozen cans you could also ensure some element of chilled-ness. All boxes ticked, so CA hasn’t changed that much in 30 years!

  29. Gus

    The one carton rule was the thin end of the wedge.

  30. #25 John – Your article has some noteable recent support with the weekend rant from Ian Healy. I know ex-players are the least likely to support the administration (Jeff Thompson anyone?) but his spray would get some attention. Paul Barry has also had a whack at KFC/CA on Crikey today so you have definitely reflected a wider perception.

    As one of the dreaded breed of sports administrators, I am not likely to agree too much with your view, but I can see how some come to be too remote from the grass roots, particularly if they have been in the position too long. In these cases, the administrator can have an unhealthy sense of ownership of the game which tends to close them off from other views. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome soon follows.

    Paid administrators should have the attitude that they are only temporary custodians of the game and that they will leave the game in better shape than which they found it. If they are only there to preserve their position then its time to go.

  31. JTH – Peter Roebuck in this morning’s Age (8 Feb)seems to be in agreement with you – especially the last paragraph.

  32. Hi John,

    I’m a 19 yr old media and communications uni student who is just coming to terms with what he’s been fed the first couple of years in his degree. This summer, for the first time in my cricket watching life, I felt dirty. It was blatantly obvious the amount of time the players had spent in front of the makeup mirror at advertising studios. So your comment in your first cricket rant… “I was sick of it when I was 18…I realized I’d been brought up a total innocent and was completely unprepared for the crap world I suddenly found myself in.” … put into words how I felt when it came to dawn on me the powers at force here. So thank you for shedding some light on this issue. I too feel like my innocent upbringing has come to an end.

    Sport is meant to be a safe haven from the real shitty political crap you find in the rest of the news. I like that there is a conversation that questions the administrators. I hate that there has to be one.

  33. Kieran, to my mind elite sport has always been a place of ‘real shitty political crap’. There is no golden age or pure space. Witness, Eddie Gilbert, Bradman v. the Catholics, Hitler’s Olympics, Mussolini’s World Cup, the exclusion of blacks in all Australian sport, apartheid (overt in South Africa and covert elsewhere), the Croke Park massacre and so on. And our ever-flourishing sporting culture is at least partly premised on the idea that sport is a good way to prepare young men for war.

    In some ways elite sport is less political today, now that it has become another form of business.

  34. Ian – well said. But fortunately sport survived these political onslaughts. I’m not so confident it can survive the “McSport” approach of the modern era. In some ways what is happening now is more insidious because it eats away at the culture of the sport in question. Politics corrupts the administration, but bad, money obsessed administration corrupts the game itself.

    The AFL is a prime example. The rule changes are not about improving the game, they are about making it a better TV product, one that pleases the sponsors – and sod the cultural impact.

  35. Paul Bauer says:

    Good to hear you on the radio today John.

    You make some great points in your article.

    Funny, I was watching the match last night against Sri Lanka, and thought, “Gee, I hate the Australian team, I really hope Sri Lanka knocks them off.”

    Maybe too much success has spoiled us. Perhaps we need to return to the mid 80’s and the joy of the “unexpected” World Cup triumph of 1987. rather than the “arrogance” of the current day, when we think we will just win everything.

    Cheers, Paul.

  36. Rick Kane says:

    Hi JTH

    I attended the ACOSS conference in Melbourne this week. It is a very stimulating couple of days and has some of the best Australian intellectuals discussing inequality and social action. From Ross Garnaut to Bob Brown to Ged Kearney to Saul Eslake to Janet Meagher to Adele Horin, there was plenty of advocacy and intellectual muscle.

    On day one Dr Simon Longstaff from the St James Ethics Centre delivered a remarkable speech on the maintaining spirit in the current economic and political climate. He was focussed on the challenges to the community services sector but what he said correlated and resonated with your rants here re Cricket Australia. Here is a little of what he presented. He argued that we are living in an era of forgetting, where the surface takes precedence over depth and that we have lost confidence in the language of ethics, which has been overtaken by our focus on economics. He said economic calculations dictate political positions and policy developments. He quotes Eco’s observation that while the ancient world created heroes to tell its story, the modern world is obsessed with celebrity. (Sound familiar?). I have included a piece he wrote over ten years ago about cricket, because it also has a relationship to your questioning.
    http://www.ethics.org.au/ethics-articles/all-sporting-good-reduced

  37. E.regnans says:

    I guess a rant is only really a snapshot in time, a moment brought on from pent up thoughts.
    Loved this.
    I realise it’s now four years on.
    But it’s my first read and I wonder how much has changed.

  38. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    7 years on and the bombardment has intensified. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, Apps galore. White noise and hot images are the new gods. I’ve disconnected from footy and cricket significantly since 2011 mainly for the above reasons.
    Hamburger stands JTH !

  39. Brilliant to read this again. The disconnect grows, the questions remain, the game staggers along as a commercial success and a public failure.

    Part 2 please JTH.

  40. Reading the Age this morning i noticed Domain property have naming rights for domestic series over the next four years.

    Of course we recently had the big TV deals for Cricket, tennis, AFL, etc.

    Cricket like all commodities, has two values: a use value and an exchange value. The latter is clearly the primary.

    Here’s my two bobs worth,

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=19426

    Glen!

  41. It is dispiriting to me just how many of the issues in this time-capsule have only been exacerbated in the years that have passed.

  42. Peter Crossing says:

    I would agree that, in the interim, things have become worse. The CA thirst for commercial excess and the lack of appreciation of the senior players for anything outside their own unworldly bubble both spinning further and further out of control.
    In the wake of the events in South Africa and the subsequent furore, two reviews are under way – one involving the senior players and the other involving the system. It remains to be seen whether Smith, Warner and Bancroft will be the only ones to be held responsible for what the culture of Australian cricket at the highest level has become. Certainly the penalties meted out to them are far in excess of other “simple” ball tampering incidents, even the most recent involving Sri Lanka.
    Darren Lehmann, the man who said he was personally responsible for the culture inside the team, has moved on and been appointed by CA to a role guiding young cricketers. Work that out.
    David Warner now seems to be on the Mark Waugh trajectory – sanctioned by Cricket Australia for misdemeanours, then becoming a commentator and thence to Australian selector. Shudder. I must admit I don’t mind if I don’t ever see Warner (even without the foaming at the mouth) on the cricket field again.
    Excellent article about Steve Smith and Australian cricket at the highest level in the Good Weekend section of The Age last Saturday.
    https://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/what-turned-steve-smith-into-a-cheat-20180618-p4zm57.html
    One of the lessons that can be taken from the Smith saga is that aspiring young talented cricketers need to be given wider advice and guidance than would be provided by the likes of Lehmann.
    At the local grassroots level, absorbing, enjoyable and passionate cricket needs to and will continue – without all the bollocks.

  43. To go back momentarily to the ‘Watto tonks Granny’ ad: it’s not just another bombastic, banal, humourless and pointless 60 seconds of chest-banging hogwash, but it betrays an ignorance of the rules of the game.

    If Watson had done that in a match, he’d have been out ‘hit the ball twice’ (and not overturned on review). Unless the ump had determined he was protecting his wicket – in which case no runs would be awarded.

    But hey – some ponytail with a cornflakes=packet MBA though it was hilarious….

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