In case you a) missed it or b) don’t care, the ODI series between Australia and South Africa recently finished, the former winning by 4 games to 1. Living in Australia, I got to watch some of the games on TV (still free to air – ECB take note) and one thing you couldn’t help but notice was the crowds. Or lack of them.
There has already been much debate about the reasons why and the usual stuff comes up – tickets are too expensive, wrong time of year, kids are at school etc.
All very valid points, but to me the main reason is staring the administrators in the face. It’s the lack of context in a bilateral ODI series. Considering the series was billed as preparation for the forthcoming World Cup starting next year, the teams didn’t take it very seriously. For example, Mitchell Johnson played the first two games, which were shared, and then sat out the remainder in order to rest before the imminent Test matches against India. South Africa chopped and changed their side seemingly at will. Replacing Morne Morkel for a game after he took 5 wickets and was MOTM was just one decision that stood out as bizarre.
So if the teams couldn’t be bothered to put out full sides you can understand the apathy of the general public.
What I dream of, and would be great for the sport, is to shake up the World Cup system entirely. Most of all by making the Full Members have to qualify. I bet any money that this series would have had the best players involved and bumper crowds if qualification for the World Cup was at stake. The games would be tons more exciting too.
Think about how this could be expanded – every ICC region would have an ODI qualifying tournament spread over a certain period. For example in the Europe region you could have a lesser qualification stage and then say the top 5 teams play off against each other. Would be something like England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Denmark for arguments sake. Now you might say that it would be a non-spectacle and that England would walk the group – well let’s see and we can find out. Every game would have something riding on it, the interest of the fans would be kept throughout, and the sport would gain traction in some of the smaller countries of the world. A win win all round.
Unfortunately the ICC don’t believe in the development of the sport, their recent press release reaffirming the reduction of the World Cup to 10 teams from 2019. Which is a ridiculous position to take. No other sport I can think of has such an agenda to shrink its global growth.
In other news, best wishes to Australian batsman Phil Hughes after his sickening injury earlier today. He was hit on the side of the head from a Sean Abbott bouncer, collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He remains in a critical condition after surgery and is currently in an induced coma. Wish him all the best for a speedy recovery.