Cricket crisis

Australia’s cricketers have retained the famous Ashes urn. Packed grounds every day of the just-concluded series saw some brilliant attacking play.

However, of the cricket played, England was the real entertainer. The Poms have taken test batting to an exciting new level and, in doing so, have greatly lifted interest in the game in the UK and have seen a great participation surge in levels, male and female.

By contrast, Australia’s cricket was underpinned by defence-stodgy batting, dry line short of a length bowling, and the most defensive fields I’ve ever seen.

Thank God for Mitch Marsh, called in mid-series, for his blazing century that showed that not every Aussie player was more concerned with often mind-numbing batting.

The lowest point was at The Oval in the final test when Marnus Labuschagne spent over two hours scoring eight – a futile display that insulted the capacity crowd that had paid big bucks to attend.

Aussie players, coaches and media scoffed at ‘Bazball’ before the series. The fact is though we need some of it in this country.

It’s a crowded summer sports scene now and plenty of choice for fans – I doubt new spectators will buy tickets for three runs an over and 12 overs an hour.

More compelling cricket is needed if new followers are to be attracted, rusted-on ones retained, and kids inspired to take up the game.

Test attendances in Australia have declined and participation needs urgent address.

Entertainment

Like all sports today, cricket has to focus on entertainment. It needs to pay more respect to its most important stakeholders – the people who come through the turnstiles, many of them travelling long distances at hefty cost.

Maybe Australia, like England, needs a much more positive coach, one who encourages batsmen to take the game on, give the fans some really entertaining and at times thrilling play.

Someone like Aaron Finch comes to mind. He sings from the same song sheet as Brendon McCullum.

Many people are a bit dubious about current coach Andrew McDonald and are sceptical of the part he may have played in Justin Langer’s demise.

Roles reversed

Lots of people I’ve spoken to are shaking their heads that now it is England likely to be the saviour of Test cricket and not Australia.

The legendary Aussie ‘greats’ from Trumper to Ponting were always great drawcards.

Trumper made 102 in the pre-lunch session first day of the Old Trafford test in 1902, and it was on a rain-damaged pitch. Pre-lunch at The Oval a fortnight ago Australia’s openers put on 52 on a flat batting surface.

Dad’s Army

An ageing team went to England and there are no new young bats on view.

England has blooded four young players, all exciting stroke players, who will shine for the next decade – Brook, Crawley, Pope and Duckett.

When is head selector Geroge Bailey going to shape our future? He better start doing it this coming summer against Pakistan and now sadly weak West Indies.

India will be here the following summer then England returns. Geroge better do something now.

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Cricket in this country may need an administration shake up. It’s often been said that ‘Australian cricket has survived, often thrived, despite the relentless efforts of administration to stuff it completely’.

The new chairman of Cricket Australia, Mike Baird, a former NSW Premier, offers some hope of a strong hand on the tiller.

Where have they gone?

In 1948 at Leeds, Don Bradman’s team, with four fast bowlers, averaged 19 to 20 overs an hour. So too did England.

Output for the series was 115 overs per day – with no overtime.

Today the output per day is a farce – about 85 overs even with half an hour added. It is a farce.

The International Cricket Council, the world body, fines players part of the match fee for the slow over rates.

Most players are millionaires so it’s like fining you or me 10 cents. Make the sides eat into their lunch break if they can’t bowl the stipulated 30. Do the same at the tea break. If the side in the field is five overs short at the end of play take five runs an over from the offending team’s batting total.

Apparently when Labuschagne was boring The Oval crowd witless the TV audience in both countries slumped to half.

Varia

Ivanhoe won the Associated Grammar School Victoria, AGSV, football title after a 60-year drought.

In a thrilling final before over 2000 people on Saturday they defeated a gallant Yarra Valley by three points.

The Valley is still waiting for it’s first title. Spectators with drums and bugles added to a colourful finale.

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The enormous popularity of the Matildas has guaranteed a surge in numbers of girls playing soccer.

Meanwhile the ‘Diamonds’ – our national netball team – has triumphed again winning the World Cup in South Africa. Their fine feat was buried beneath the avalanche of publicity for the Matildas.

Fab four

The four pictured were Assumption College Kilmore students of the 1960s – all were stars of the VFL/AFL. Pictured from left are Kevin Heath, Francis Bourke, Denis Munari and Peter Crimmins. The latter two have passed from this life.

Heath played 218 games for Hawthorn and Carlton, Bourke clocked 300 for Richmond, Munari 66 for Carlton and North and Crimmins 184 for Hawthorn.

The four were outstanding schoolboy sports stars and there was no doubt each would progress to higher honours. Bourke, Crimmins and Munari were fine cricketers and Bourke played for Canterbury Cricket Club until 2019 when he was 74.

Over the years he represented the club First XI down to its sixth XI. Still very fit he was still playing masters cricket last summer.

Kevin Heath’s father was a senior police officer, his mum a truly lovely Irish lady.

Denis Munari died recently and was farewelled by a large crowd at Seymour’s Catholic Church.

Peter Crimmins died from cancer in 1976; aged in his late twenties. As he lay dying, Hawks players took their ’76 premiership cup to his bedside.

I still remember going with the ACK First XVIII of the year to be part of a guard of honour outside a packed St John’s Church, Hawthorn on that now distant day.

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The girl pictured, Sarah Hamilton is a cricket fanatic. She plays for her club side in Norfolk and was featured recently in a UK magazine.

I stayed for a time with her folks in the village of Castle Acre and I’ve been sending Aussie cricket items to Sarah ever since. Very kindly she reciprocates with English cricket cards and posters.

Her favourite test players are Australian Steve Smith and England’s Stuart Broad.