Never one to let the grass grow, the state government was right there beside Cricket Victoria to announce a crackdown on scalpers at next summer’s Boxing Day Test.
Yep, woe betide the scoundrel who tries to cash in on Australia v New Zealand. That’s New Zealand, who when they last appeared on Boxing Day almost 30 years ago drew 51,000, and the time before that 26,000, and who even with novelty on their side in the first day-night Test in this country in Adelaide four years ago fetched merely 43,000.
That is not to belittle New Zealand, who are always honest competitors, but they are a small country and a modest drawcard. Scalpers won’t be a problem on Boxing Day, but freebies might.
Tuesday's unveiling of next summer’s cricket program was a snow job of the highest order. With military precision, cricket officials and state government ministers were wheeled out simultaneously in all state capitals to spruik the joys. It made everyone and place sound like a never-ending winner.
Perth was getting a day-night Test at its swank new stadium. Damned if it wasn’t going to draw 100,000, said WACA chief executive Christina Matthews. Ahem. Last summer’s inaugural Test there, featuring India, brought in just 81,000, the majority of them Indians. This time, it’s, ahem … New Zealand … look over there, LED lights, halo roof, a super-screen, another one, and wait for this one: sound.
The Gabba was getting its traditional pipe opener back. Its tender for a naming rights sponsor was also attracting “strong interest”, sports minister Mick de Brenni wanted us to know, and any moment now, it mightn’t be the Gabba any more. It’s a small price to pay for payments.
The Adelaide’s Oval sales pitch was that Pakistan was back, after a 30-year absence, if you hadn’t noticed. Melbourne was getting a Major Event, officially designated so in proper noun capitals by sports minister Martin Pakula, sitting right up there with the Grand Final, Anzac Day and the Australian Open final. Scalpers, quiver here.
The wow factor in the Pakistan Test series is that it is Australia’s first at home in the new Test championship. The wow factor in a late-season one-day series against New Zealand is that it is Australia’s last before the new one-day championship kicks in. Do you see what they did there?
Behind all the puffery lies a pretty threadbare international program, in which a little happens, but not for long, and in between, not much happens for ages. The most striking feature is the featurelessness, hence all the look over there, and there, and up there.
At the MCG, there will be only two matches for the summer, a T20 and the Test. There will be no men’s one-day internationals anywhere until that mini-series against New Zealand late in March (so much for the cachet of the Word Cup). It will finish with a day-nighter in Hobart, where the temperature can be expected to be 10 or less. Catch that.
Optus stadium: all that light.
For the women, there is a fairly orderly progression to their World T20 Cup in February and March. But the men’s team will not appear in Australia for more than two months, covering most of January and all of February. Even when it is here, it will be un-customarily low-viz: the Perth Test won’t finish until after 11pm on the eastern seaboard. Still, you know, lights, sound, halos. In New Zealand, it will be 2am, but they’re only New Zealand.
Curmudgeonly? Yes it is. The point is that this was always going to be a tricky summer to map out. Nor will succeeding summers be any easier. Eight of the 10 senior cricket nations share the same summer, making for an ever more complex maze of overlapping priorities and commitments, pulling players and administrators this way and that, and all are in thrall anyway to India, which explains Australia’s absence from Australia at the height of next summer. They will be in India, getting their three bags full.
Cricket Australia had flagged all this, and negotiated it earnestly, and are in their honeymoon period as an administration anyway, and most understand this, so why snow us?
We’re pretty alert to, and sceptical about, campaigns out here in the general populace right now. The cricket program is an unavoidable hodge-podge, and no amount of wordy government-backed embiggening can hide that.
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