A controversy is brewing within the headquarters of Cricket Australia – call it the “restgate scandal”.
Australian selectors are almost trivialising the Baggy Green by pursuing a strict rotation policy for the bowlers.
Gone are the days when the Baggy Green was as difficult to obtain as the class geek seducing the blonde cheerleader. Today are the days when being the Australian geek on an American university exchange isn’t so bad. Anything is possible.
Mitchell Johnson can seem to be the forgotten cricketer and suddenly declare himself Australia’s “impact” bowler. Mitchell Starc has a breakout Test match with a match winning spell of bowling against Sri Lanka but is not selected for the Boxing Day Test Match. Stranger or more absurd things have happened in the unpredictable world of Australian cricket.
There is no conclusive evidence that states if Australian bowlers’ current heavy work load is the reason for the injury plague. Past great test bowlers, like Dennis Lillee, believe the plague can be controlled if the bowlers are allowed to bowl far more. Others say that too much focus on weight training has hindered the bowlers’ flexibility and therefore are more prone to injury.
In what can be argued as the biggest Test Match on the Australian calendar, The Boxing Day Test Match, Australia is presenting an unsatisfactory product for the public. While the traditionalists will turn up for nearly every ball of the Melbourne Test, the more casual fan will not. Already the opponent Sri Lanka makes the test match difficult for Cricket Australia to sell to the public. Now, add the fact that we won’t be watching the best possible Australian XI and that makes it highly unsatisfactory.
National Selector John Inverarity claims that the rest policy is justified by the fact that other sports follow a similar policy.
”I don’t know why it takes people so long to get their head around it. It’s an integral part of AFL football, Chris Judd plays 78 or 82 per cent of the game. He blitzes it for seven or eight minutes, then he comes off for three minutes. I don’t see the difference. The top teams in the English Premier League soccer, they have a squad of players and the best players play most of the games but not all of the games. Overall, you maximise your effectiveness,”said Inverarity.
Here is where Cricket Australia’s policy is flawed. The English Premier League, or the NBA, or even the AFL play significantly more games and play repeatedly in front of their home and away crowds, which allows resting players an acceptable decision for both the team sake and for the fans. Yet, in the game of cricket, each Australian State only get the chance to see the Australian Test Team play in-person once a year. In the NBA, fans can see their team play in the state they originate from 41 times. In the AFL, fans can also see the team play in the state they originate from up to 16 times.
Now it seems that we might only get to see the best cricketers play once every two years.
Yes, the selectors have a right to try to field a team that they believe is in their best interests. Yet, when this means damaging the quality of the product on Channel Nine, ABC Radio and for the thousands of patrons who attend the biggest test match of the year, Cricket Australia are in the wrong.
Commercial media pay the broadcast rights and patrons pay tickets for the matches assuming they will receive full value for their dollar.
For years, Cricket Australia have often failed to live up to the task of promoting Australia’s summer game. This “restgate scandal” (yes a scandal) leaves us further disillusioned with the administrators in Australian cricket and abroad.
Is this what test cricket really needs at a time when crowd numbers are embarrassingly low?