After reading about the recent review into Australian cricket, I wanted to write a post about how short-sighted Cricket Australia has been in their follow-up statements, and how I think they can start to ‘fix’ the culture around the Australian men’s cricket team.
When CA make comments about changing the culture of cricket, they’re referring to the men’s team. The men have always been, and apparently still are, the centre of CA’s universe. And although the language says ‘we’, what they’re really referring to is the men.
They seem to forget that as an association, they actually encompass much more than just the elite Australian men in these statements, and really, they need look no further than our Australia women’s cricket team, the Southern Stars, for shining examples of what a cricket team should look like and play like.
While we seem to be unable to find a winning mix of players in the men’s team in all forms of the game, we have an abundance of talent in the women’s competition.
This is despite the fact that a majority of female players aren’t full-time professionals. Some of them are barely part-time semi-pros, but they’re toiling away for their clubs and state sides, hoping for a chance to get an Australian cap or a call-up for a WBBL team each summer.
The Aussie women are playing good, solid cricket, and are winning games and series overseas.
And not a scandal among them.
What’s the difference?
Well, apart from the massive gap in pay, since the women have just recently been given enough funding for our top players to go full-time, there’s one massive difference I think the review has missed the mark on.
Our women’s players do a lot of work in their communities. They visit their old clubs (and play for them while they’re not on rep duties) and they visit schools and junior clubs to run training clinics. They stick around for hours after matches to sign autographs and talk to fans.
The majority of them also study part-time or hold down second jobs that they go back to in their off-season.
That’s another huge difference.
The women have an off-season.
Though some of our best players had a stint in the Kia Super League in England this year, most of our players came home or travelled for some much-needed time off away from the game.
How do I know? I follow a lot of them on social media and love seeing what they get up to in their downtime. (If you don’t already, you should seriously seek out some of the Aussie women’s cricketers and give them a follow – they’ll brighten up your social media timelines).
Off-seasons are few and far between for the men now, with overseas tours and stints in T20 leagues all around the world eating up more and more time. Off-seasons help with rest and recovery and provide time for players to ground themselves in other pursuits. It also helps with mental health, which is so important in elite sport.
So having said all of that, here are my top 3 things I think CA can do to improve the men’s team and make them more like the women’s team:
- Enforced off-seasons – CA already have the option to disallow players from playing in T20 leagues if they think it will interfere with their representative duties. I think CA (and player managers) can go further and require all players to have time off between tours and seasons. They should also look at how many games they’re trying to cram in each year and reduce them so that players are physically and mentally fit. I love my cricket but I’ve switched off from the men’s game because there are way too many games and series to try to keep up with now.
- Community work and charity work – Rather than just making players available for state and club duty each summer, they should be required to be available for much more charity and community work. This could be done during their off-season. Plugging things for sponsors is all well and good, but it’s the grassroots that matter most for a sustainable future in cricket, and CA could do well to get our top players to spend more time with those toiling away each week for the fun of it to keep them grounded. And finally,
- Semi-professionalism until players reach their mid-20s – Holding down other jobs and/or study early in their careers means players don’t get caught up in a cricket bubble so early. Steve Smith and many other young players who were pipped early for elite sides have suffered from this problem. When all you know is cricket, you don’t have any other context outside of sport for moral and ethical dilemmas, or for success and failure. Also, when you have a second career/job option to fall back on, it means the decision to train and play hard to reach the top levels of cricket is much more worth it.
So before you switch off from Australian cricket because you think the men aren’t redeemable (we disagree on that point if that’s what you think), start watching the women’s game. I will absolutely guarantee they’ll restore your faith in cricket in this country.
And if you have kids who love cricket, you need look no further for role models than our women’s cricketers.
They’ve played in obscurity for so long that it’s now their time to be elevated to our country’s favourite sporting team. (Along with the Matilda’s – but I’ll leave that for another post).
By the way, I reckon Meg Lanning’s got the best job in Australia.
Want to support the Aussie women’s cricket team? You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And look up your favourite players on your preferred social media platform. They’re fantastic value.