Perth Diary Articles

Cricket fever pitching rather feverishly low

It’s not quite the same thing.

“Only 0.2% of Australians are watching.”  – Australian cricket fan on Twitter.

Mind you, this was prior to the India/Australia match. And I have no idea if the figure is right.

But it struck me as odd. Those of you who know me have no doubt been giggling over the status updates I have been making over the past few days relating to cricket. Tidbits of information like the fact that the West Indies have won the Cricket World Cup twice. That it started off in 1979. That sort of thing.

It’s not that the Australians don’t like cricket, they do. But for some reason, the cricket fever has hit fever pitch on the pitch in the subcontinent and other countries, not in Australia. None of the Australians I know are excited at all or have been even from the start.

The Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan diasporas are scrambling to watch the matches wherever they are. Some of them have carefully engineered days off and vacation time so as to take in the monumental cricket season. Every day I see updates on Facebook or Twitter about someone with tickets.

“Upper A, Upper B, Upper C and even Upper D.”  – Friend hawking tickets on Facebook.

Even Irish friends cheered when Ireland trashed England. Of course, they cheered mostly because this gave them another excuse to keep drinking.

I can only assume even with England playing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with their form are keeping up the enthusiasm – I mean they have the Barmy Army after all. Who must be loving it being in the subcontinent right now.

“He only has one song!” – Barmy Army singing about their de facto leader.

But the Australians are suspiciously silent.

“They are playing?” -Clueless Australian friend.

Why is this? I mean, come Ashes time, everyone can’t stop talking about it. In fact, the Ashes bore me. Yeah, go ahead play England – 9 times out of 10 you’ll win, big deal. Oh wait, unless of course Ricky Ponting messes up. Yes, I know, honour and all that – yawn.

Come the Cricket World Cup and unless they are hosting, they don’t care.

“So slow paced, boring. I’d rather follow football, rugby union and hockey. Tons of scandal.” Random Australia based friend.

Scandal? What about Pakistan? Was that a minor mishap? A slight faux pas? Whereas stories about rape accusations and footballers show up so often in the paper it’s like the equivalent of the rookie reporter covering the dog show. It’s like the question of whether it will rain today or not – yes or no? Will there be such a story in the paper – yes or no?

As for slow paced – cricket comes in flavours now, depending on how short your attention span is. Goldfish length? 20-20 matches. Taking a sick day? One day matches. Got a week off and you want an excuse not to help out around the house or to hang out with in-laws? 3-5 day Test matches.

I think the point is that Cricket Australia does not do a very good job of enabling Australian cricket fans support the team while they are playing overseas. In fact, they are horrendously bad at it. I am not surprised the team performs badly – how awful must they feel to play away and see the support the other teams get? England, even when they perform so horribly, still have the Barmy Army travelling across the world to support them.

0.2%. The last time Australia played Sri  Lanka in Melbourne/Sydney (I forget which it was), the place was packed… with people cheering for Sri Lanka.

0.2%. Gilchrist, the Waughs (both Tugger and Junior), McGrath, Warne (hate him or not) – are all gone. Not many players left that command respect and admiration from their fans. Not enough support from Cricket Australia when overseas. Not much motivation to play well though I am sure they do try their best.

But I do think this is a good thing. They have grown complacent as a team, depending on key players to carry them. Now with them knocked out of the Cup, they have some thinking to do about where they are going wrong. And if done right, that can only mean a stronger team in the long run.

So my predictions for the World Cup? My first preference to win is Sri Lanka – they are a better team than they were post 1996 and pre 2008. My second preference is for New Zealand. Why? They have proven that they can be good, better than they expected and I really hate how a lot of Australians seem to consider New Zealand some sort of third rate backwater save for skiing holidays. And honestly, if they have proven they are good enough, why not? They have never won it and we have won it once.

Mind you, I thought that there would be an upset and it was New Zealand defeating South Africa (another team that needs a rapid rethink). I am still nervous about England versus Sri Lanka (what if England pulls a rabbit out of a hat?) and I think India will beat Pakistan. If England gets through though then I would love it if New Zealand won against them.

The funniest thing about the Cricket World Cup? England created the game but has never won the Cup. Maybe because they are better at tests than one days.

In the next few years, the top six teams are going to change. If Ireland and Netherlands can beat other major teams, they and Bangladesh are clearly improving rapidly. Not to mention New Zealand. In the next few years, can some of the subcontinent teams maintain a foothold in the top six?

And will there be a place for Australia?

Not if it’s just 0.2%.

NOTE: Australia has the same population figures as Sri Lanka: 21 million or thereabouts. If 0.2% is correct, that means that only 42,000 people are watching. Does that sound right to anyone? Or a bit scary?

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

3 Comments

  • Sach

    You just can’t not love England, can you. It’s like they alone took the responsibility of making this world cup interesting and did their best to keep up the ‘good’ work.

    However about the Aussies, the problem is that while their fans recognize the gaping holes in the system the CA is kind of oblivious to it all. They are so blindly denying the fact that they have problems and keep insisting everything’s fine. The problem; it’s not fine. And how can you be, after the legends like the people you’ve mentioned gone, it’s always gonna be hard. Only Ricky is remaining of those invincible’s of the past.

    I, for one, am sad what’s happened to Aussie cricket, but it’s also kind of inevitable I guess.

    • Marisa

      The England team’s enthusiasm is to be admired along with some of the other teams. But these teams are ranked so all I am saying is that if some teams are on top, others at the bottom and it’s nice to see a few new faces go to the top.

      Because these rankings are not just judged against each other but against past ability too – so some teams have improved and some haven’t. And if you’re one of the teams that needs to improve you kind of need to be able to not turn a blind eye to it AND you need to have your cricket board support you as much as possible when you play at home or away.

      But I think all teams will go through these cycles – it’s a rare moment when you get good players, good captains, good management, good board decisions all happening at once so that you can come out on top. And I think your fan support definitely counts for a lot even though we may not be able to quantify exactly what kind of impact it has on how well the team plays.

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