Yawn…the year in cricket

Yesterday Australia beat the Windies in Melbourne, thus ending what is quite possibly the most boring year of international cricket that I can remember. If it was not for the World Cup I’d be certain of that – not that the World Cup was fantastic. It was different though, and had some exciting moments.

Probably the most interesting test match of the year was the night test match against the Kiwi’s in Adelaide. It had an exciting finish, but even so their felt something contrived about it. The pink ball upset the balance, as did the transition from night to day. It made for some compelling cricket, but luck, or circumstance, played too big a role for it to be a classic contest.

Going into the year there was good reason to be expectant. Not only was there a locally hosted Cricket World Cup, there was also an away Ashes series to look forward to.

As mentioned, the world cup had some great moments and some not so great moments, but ultimately went according to script. The best part about it was the performance of some of the minnows, and the genuinely multicultural crowds. By most measures it was a great success.

The historic nature of the Ashes generally makes it great viewing. On paper it looks like it was a close and entertaining series – no draws, and a 3-2 victory to England. The reality is that not one of the test matches were close. When one team got on top, that was it, a virtual walkover till the next test match, when likely the result would be reversed. Having said that, you’ll have got more out of as a Pom than as an Aussie.

The summer of cricket in Australia has been dull. No matter how much they try and whip up enthusiasm for the Kiwi’s it’s hard yet to see them much more than worthy triers – though that might be different when we play them there.

The first test was a dominant win to Oz, the second test a yawnfest, and the third test interesting, though flawed – and another victory to Australia.

Then the West Indies. I grew up watching great Windies teams. They were the tours you looked forward to most. Those days are long gone. In Hobart Australia won within three days. The Windies stiffened their resolve in Melbourne, but it was still a comfortable victory to Oz. Sydney is to come, and likely more of the same – but that’s next year.

So what happened this year? I reckon pitches are a big part to blame. All over the world curators seem to be instructed to prepare bat friendly pitches. It results in high scores, interminable innings, and much inflated batting averages. The better team will bat the lesser team out of the contest every time.

It’s high time we returned to more sporting pitches – and in Australia (where the pitches are generally prepared with less bias) pitches are returned to their historic nature – Perth lightning fast, Sydney and Adelaide good for spin, Brisbane a bit for everyone(generally the best pitch in the world imo), and Melbourne a bit of everything. It makes for more interesting cricket.

The time has come that the ICC legislates for something like this. Drop in pitches and average curators have an influence, but the biggest issue is pitches doctored to suit the home team – most particularly in India. Given that the ICC is dominated by India it’s hard to see this happening.

Otherwise there’s a gap in ability. I don’t think there’s a great team in test cricket presently. Australia are about to go number one, and while we’re a decent team on the move, we’re nothing in comparison to the Australian team of the mid-2000’s. South Africa are the current number one, but on the slide, and England are coming, but neither great nor consistent.

They’re not great teams, but the teams a level below have dropped right away. The Windies are barely deplorable. Sri Lanka, with the retirement of great players, is sliding. New Zealand is willing and challenging; Pakistan dangerous in their conditions; and India flat track bullies.

There are structural issues in cricket today, as above, and exacerbated probably by the constant nature of the game now, and almost complete ‘professionalism’. But I’m hoping also that much of it is cyclical. Right now we’re in a down patch. Next year hopefully it’s up.

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