An opinion piece on Australia’s favourite summer sport

By Steve Ingham

After a non-eventful day in the whites myself (we got pummelled by 10 wickets), I sat down on Saturday Night to watch a little bit of Victoria v WA on the telly, and was once again disappointed but not surprised at the vision of 22 of the countries top 70 cricketers playing in front of what appeared to be a completely empty MCG.

Apparently there were 1500 people there, but I think Fox Sports had a lot of trouble finding them! Now ill be the first to admit I can understand why there weren’t more people there. For starters, we all play cricket ourselves on Saturday, and it was bloody cold this weekend!! But there must be something that can be done about these crowd numbers. I mean, there was no less than 12 players with international experience (Hodge, Rogers, D Hussey, McDonald, Siddle, Nannes, McGain, Harwood, Johnson, North, Noffke & Voges) so the quality was there. Then head office has tinkered with the format, so the interest is there.

But in Melbourne, we are given enough opportunity to see high quality, high level cricket. Consider this: Boxing Day Test, 2 International One Dayers, 5 Sheffield Shield Games, 4 State One Day Games, 3 State T20’s and 1 international T20, that totals 40 days of first class cricket in Melbourne over the summer. That’s a lot.

Here is what I would do to increase interest levels in this great game throughout the country.

Pick 3 regional centres for each state. Here in Vic, we could quite easily use Geelong, Ballarat & Bendigo. NSW – Dubbo, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour. QLD – Townsville, Cairns, Gold Coast. As you can see, we are talking bigger regional cities. Give each of those cities 1 shield & 1 state one day match. Because these centres are starved of top quality cricket, there is little doubt they would show more interest and get behind the matches. They could be staged over the course of 7 or 8 days with the one day match on the Sunday to maximise opportunities for local cricketers to get there. Even a crowd of only 5-6000 would be a major improvement, and would give our future generations of cricketer the chance to have their national heroes they see on TV in their own backyard. Think of the great PR this could generate. AFL are so far advanced in this area of sport, and they only have “community camps” or practise matches in regional area’s. This would also give players the opportunity to play on more surfaces and develop their skills. What if the heat of Cairns could produce an Indian style turning pitch, while the cold conditions of Ballarat could replicate a Lords style wicket. This is the thinking outside the box that Cricket Australia must consider. More people showed up to the AFL Grand Final parade than will probably go to all 30 shield & 30 state one day games combined.

Another thing I would do is have a round of state cricket at the start of each international season where all international players made themselves available. Again, the one day format would probably best suit this, but it is too rare that we see our best cricketers getting the opportunity to represent their states. I don’t think Shane Watson has even played for NSW yet!

There is no doubt that our state level cricket is of an extremely high quality. It is where our next generation of test stars will come through, and it deserves to be treated with much more respect than it is currently given. Taking it to regional areas on a much bigger basis than currently done will breathe some life into 2 versions of our great sport that are quickly turning stale.


  1. John Butler says


    Really like the idea of the Bushrangers coming to Ballarat.

    You would think it would be more cost effective not to have to open the MCG, even if extra accommodation was a factor. Watching a Shield game at the “G in front of 300 people seems ridiculous.

  2. Hope to get to the ‘G Thursday for the last day.

  3. I agree, playing at the MCG is a waste and that we should be playing at regional venues – but aren’t the Bushrangers contractually obliged to play a certain number of games there?

    The Sheffield Shield and Mercantile Mutual Cups were a huge part of my life growing up in Adelaide. Nine used to do cross promotions during international games (and one dayers) advertising the competitions in ad breaks as well as letting everyone know when the ‘Dollar Day’ was ($1 entry with a free Balfours Pie and Can of Coke for the kids. Always a Sunday of a shield game or weekday during school holidays).

    These were days that shaped a childhood. Discovering that Graham Gooch was a true gentleman of the game, Jason Gillespie a gentle giant and Phil Tufnell and Phil Alley were complete tossers.I only wish more kids could experience what I experienced.

  4. Tim, I grew up watching every SA shield game from the Southern mound, with a heap of fritz and sauce sangers and a stock of raspberry cordial. I try to get to every Shield game now in Melbourne. One argument is that the players deserve to be at the best venue.

  5. Steve
    your suggestions have plenty of merit. However, my perspective on cricket might be typical of a person that doesnt attend state games. The advent of pay TV has allowed cricket of varying standards (mostly crap) to be accessed 12 month of the year. There are no “seasons” any more and I for one are sick to death of cricket other than meaningful test matches such as the upcoming ashes tour. Hell how can you have two game “test series”? I cant stand the short version of the game and wouldn’t cross the street to see one. However, that is the direction that our cricket authourities (last nights 4 Corners clearly proved that the ICC the greatest mob of dills and pillicks in the world )and junior cricketers are heading because of the dollars.
    Criket is about batting and made up strokes and the decline of bowlers has been hidden by the flashiness of the bells and whistles. “What if the heat of Cairns could produce an Indian style turning pitch”? but who in the Australain side could take advantage? Hauriz Ha ha. Cricket is in serious strife as the traditional game and the ever decreasing crowds at state games only highligh that decline. That said I hope those that continue to support and attend state teams get the enjoyment they seek. sadly I think you may be watching play in India in the not to distant future

  6. Tony,
    It wasn’t just a 2 game Test Series in India…FOX promoted it as an epic Test Battle!
    Ben Hur need only have been a short clip to qualify these days!

  7. Crio, good point, I am looking forward to my first Shield game at the G.

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