User:Brendanduffy/The revival of Australian Cricket

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Test cricket at the SCG. Photo by: David Morgan-Mar

The Australian men’s cricket team has built a reputation as one of the world’s strongest sides. In recent times however, this reputation has been flawed. The poor on field results, led to the formation of an independent review panel who was asked to analyse the performance and structure of Cricket Australia (governing body). The subsequent document which followed was titled the Argus Review. The review was conducted to suggest guidelines which could be implemented to assist Australia in returning to its winning ways. A return to sustained success for the national team will have many underlying benefits, such as sponsorship. In order to attract and retain sponsorship, prolonged success on the field is essential. Sponsorship is necessary to assure the game of cricket in Australia continues to grow and develop. TwentyTwenty cricket is the latest form of the game. This is an attractive, new concept which is loved by many fans. Due to huge popularity, TwentyTwenty offers players the chance to earn enormous amounts of money (particularly in India) in comparison to representing their state or country. The panel was faced with the issue of ensuring talented young Australian players are still solely focused on representing their country rather than traveling overseas to pursue the larger pay cheque.

Introduction[edit]

Since the 1990's, Australian's have come to expect the unrelenting dominance of their men's national cricket team. However, the 3-1 series loss to England during the 2010/2011 summer signaled the end of an era. Such a humiliating result on home soil was foreign to many Australian's who have grown up witnessing success. In turn, a critical review of the structure and running of Cricket Australia was ordered. The Argus Review subsequently followed. This review was compiled by a panel of recognised names, headed by former BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus. A range of sweeping changes have been suggested. Alterations to selectors, coaches and players are expected to ensue in the coming months. While the primary objective of the review is to generate on field success, the off field 'business' aspect of cricket in Australia is also likely to benefit from the Argus Review. Many Australians believed it was time for a major overhaul of Cricket Australia following a string of poor performances. The crushing series loss to England last summer and the drop to number five in the world Test cricket rankings sparked the necessary action. Although it may take years before the effect of the Argus Review is fully recognised, the report aims to re-direct Australian Cricket and return it to the pinnacle of the sport.

Background[edit]

Test Cricket[edit]

The Australian men’s cricket team has a rich history of accomplishment in all three formats of the game. Test Cricket however, is considered to be the pinnacle of the sport. It is the oldest form of the game and requires the highest level of mental and physical toughness in order to achieve success. The Australian Cricket Team played its first Test match against England on the 15 March 1877. Since this time, Australia is undoubtedly the most successful Test cricketing record of any nation in the world. As of the 3rd of September 2011, Australia has played 731 matches, claiming victory in 341 of them for a winning percentage of 46.64. This statistic far outweighs any other nation. The next best winning percentage is England with 35.62%; followed closely by South Africa with 34.91%.

Much of Australia’s ongoing Test success has come between the late 1990’s and the late 2000’s under the guidance of captains; Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. Both Waugh and Ponting led their respective sides to 16 consecutive Test match victories, these achievements still stand side by side as the greatest number of consecutive Test match wins by any country.

World rankings for the top eight teams from 2003 to June 2011. Image by: Interplanet Janet

The teams that have successively held the highest rating since that date, by whole month periods, are:

Team Start End Total Months Highest Rating
Australia June 2003 July 2009 74 143
South Africa August 2009 November 2009 4 122
India December 2009 July 2011 20 130
England August 2011 present 2 125
Reference: ICC Rankings

One day and Twenty20 Cricket[edit]

The two newest forms of the game are ‘One Day’ (50 over) and ‘TwentyTwenty’ (T20) cricket. T20 is the more recent of the two, with the first international game being played between Australia and New Zealand on the 17th February 2005. Australia won this game, but has since been unable to go on and establish itself as a premier T20 nation. The T20 World Cup has been played three times having been in existence since 2007. Australia’s best result in this event is runner up in the most recent 2010 event.

One Day cricket has been in existence for nearly 40 years, with the first match being played in the 1970s. Australia has had incredible success in this form of the game. Since the first World Cup in 1975, it has won four of the ten tournaments held, including three in a row (1999, 2003 & 2007). At present, Australia maintains it's world number one ranking in this format.

The Demise of Australian Cricket[edit]

Ricky Ponting signing autographs in Sydney, 2005. Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28990363@N05/2876299493/
Steve Waugh. Photo by: John P Darcy

Australia has always been a force in all forms of world cricket. This is evident predominately in the Test and One day arenas as the above records speak for themselves. Therefore, expectations are high and any poor performances by our national side are viewed by the cricketing world, media and fans as horrendous.

Australia is a cricket mad nation and can produce some of the best talents in the world. The men’s national side has been blessed with some of the best players the world has ever seen. Fortunately for Australia, many of these players happen to come along in the same era as each other to form one very formidable cricket team. With world class players like; Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist all competing together, they combine to become a powerhouse of world cricket, which in its time stood head and shoulders above any other nation.

As mentioned, Australians were very fortunate to have such great players representing their nation, leading it to great success. However, all good things must come to an end. Although Ricky Ponting is still playing, the other names mentioned above have all retired from international cricket. The retirements all came towards the end of the 2000s and left gaping holes in the Australian cricket team. Replacing the retirees to maintain Australia’s world dominance was not easy for Cricket Australia (CA) and may not have been handled in the best way. The player exits hurt the side’s success and of course a major uproar was caused as the results being produced by the Australian cricket team were not in sync with what was expected by the Australian public.

After regaining the Ashes on home soil in 2007, the Australian Test team went on to lose the next two series (2009 & 2011). It was the latter, a 3-1 series loss to England on home soil which saw Australia drop to the number five ranked Test nation in the world. This threw Australian cricket into turmoil, consequently sparking the need for an independent investigation into Cricket Australia and the way they conduct their operations. Thus, the Argus Report ensued.

The Argus Review[edit]

What is it?[edit]

The Argus Review was released on the 19th August 2011. The review is a compilation of findings and suggestions for improvement within Cricket Australia. In fact, ‘the primary objective of the Review is to make recommendations to the CA Board that will position the Australian Cricket Team to return to leadership in all three formats of international cricket – Tests, ODIs and Twenty20’ (Argus Review 2011). The review was conducted by five panellists, headed by former BHP Billiton chief, Don Argus. He was aided by three former Test captains in Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. Malcolm Speed, the former head of both Cricket Australia and the ICC (International Cricket Council) was the final member of the panel. The review outlines a number of difficult, yet attainable goals and targets set for the Australian Cricket team to achieve. In order to reach these goals, a range of strategies have been suggested. The review is specific to the men’s team only, however it is assumed that the successful elements from the paper will be implemented with the Southern Stars (women’s team) as well as all female high performance cricket. The review encompasses all aspects of the Australian Cricket teams operations as well as all structures and systems which assist it. This includes, for example, the Centre of Excellence, state competitions and talent identification and development processes.

Goals and Strategies[edit]

The ultimate objective of the Argus Review is stated in the above section. However, the review panel was also asked to:

  • Determine the reasons behind Australia’s dramatic performance decline in recent years.
  • Offer suggestions for changes necessary to deliver prolonged success, including;
  • Restoring Australia as the number one team in Test cricket within four years.

In the shorter term, more tangible goals were set for the review panel to offer their advice about how to achieve the following:

  • Qualifying for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (2013).
  • Regaining the Ashes that same year.
  • Winning the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup (ODI).
  • Winning the 2012 and 2014 World Twenty20.
Argus Review 2011

Cricket as a Business[edit]

Player Wages[edit]

Until recent times, cricket players have never been as financially sound as players of many other sports. In fact, the 2010 Australian Business Review Weekly (BRW) names only one cricketer on their top 10 sports rich list. However, since the introduction of the T20 game, cricket has become much more lucrative. The shorter format of the game is more appealing to many people. There is more action and the game is completed within three hours. In addition, TwentyTwenty cricket is marketed as the new, vibrant form of cricket. Thus the crowds have been drawn to witness this spectacle.

T20 cricket, and in particular India, have changed cricket forever. After realising the popularity of the shortest form of the game, India developed the IPL (Indian Premier League). Each team in this league is privately owned and is permitted four overseas players. Consequently this competition attracts some of the world’s best players. The worldwide interest in the annual tournament results in large amounts of sponsorship which generates significant revenue. This, in turn benefits many parties financially. The most significant however, is the players. Players can earn upwards of $500,000 for roughly six weeks work (IPL Player auctions 2011).

Australia has since established its own T20 domestic competition (Big Bash League), which in 2011 has been revamped to include city (rather than state) based teams which will be sold for private ownership. This revamp to the competition has been addressed in the Argus Report. Although private ownership may be financially beneficial for each team, the report details how it could also be harmful to Australian cricket. As stated in the review ‘private owners will not have the same objectives as CA, so introducing them to the Australian cricket system risks compromising the achievement of CA’s goals. For example, private owners have a strong incentive to expand the Big Bash regardless of its impact on international or State Cricket. This may compromise our goal of being No.1 in Test Cricket’ (Argus Review 2011). As a result, potential owners are limited to buying a maximum of 49% of the team. As a consequence though, corporate tycoons who would be likely to invest are reluctant to spend their money as they would not have the controlling stake (Dorries 2011).

Sponsorship[edit]

The above section speaks about player wages. It has been highlighted that many cricketers do not earn extravagant amounts of money despite playing their sport professionally. Endorsements are relied upon by numerous players to supplement their income, while for others, endorsements simply inflate an already sizable income. Shane Watson, currently Australia’s best all-rounder was earlier this year tipped to become Australia’s highest paid player with a salary of around $2 million. However, sponsorship and endorsement deals meant that he was in fact expected to earn nearly $5 million (Dorries & Badel 2011).

Sponsorship is not only important for the players, it is also vital for the survival and development of the sport of cricket itself. This is reflected by the comments of Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland when referring to (former) sponsor ‘Travelex’. Sutherland states ‘success at the 2007 World Cup, and overseas tours in general, relies on many factors; and one of the principal factors behind Australia’s success abroad in recent years is its partnership with Travelex who is a wonderful supporter of Australian cricket’ (Travelex Australia 2005).

The aim of the Argus Review is to return the Australian cricket team to the top of the sport again. If this goal is met, the underlying benefits such as increased sponsorship opportunities could be enormous for the continued development and success of our national team. As a sponsored team becomes more successful, they become more popular, thus they are exposed to a wider audience. In turn the sponsorship of that team becomes more sought after by companies as they know their brand will be well represented in front of a huge potential market. The sports team benefits from their success as their sponsorship rights will attract an inflated price (Khera Communications 2007).

Not only is sponsorship money important but so too is government funding. In 2010, the federal government gave $17.5 million to Cricket Australia to develop the Centre of Excellence (COE) in Brisbane. The COE develops many of Australia’s top cricketers and is an integral part of generating the next batch Australia’s young talent. Construction of the site begun in October 2011. It is hoped the improved facilities will contribute to the success of the national team in the not too distant future.

Junior Development and the Growth of the Game[edit]

Not only is success at the highest level important to attract and maintain fans and sponsors. It is also a major tool for enticing children to play the game of cricket. Children idolise their sporting heroes and want to replicate their on field success (Taylor 2008). Quite simply however, very few children would want to imitate the performances of a team which is consistently under achieving. The effects of this issue could have significant bearings in the coming years. Future Australian cricket teams will be composed from today’s kids. This statement is well supported by Cricket Victoria’s ‘Beyond the Boundary – Resource Kit’ which declares ‘the long term future of our great game is dependent upon embracing all people irrespective of their age, gender, race, religion or ability’.

Conclusion[edit]

Australia’s gradual demise in world cricket over recent seasons led Don Argus and his panel to compile the Argus Review in an attempt to return the Australian cricket team to the peak of the sport. The success generated on the field is beneficial in a number of ways off the field. For example, sponsorship is attracted with greater ease when the team is performing. The sponsorship money can then be used to further develop facilities and programs to ensure continued success. The Argus Review also acknowledges the rapid increase in popularity in T20 cricket. For the players, this form of cricket is very lucrative. Therefore, steps need to be implemented to ensure talented young Australian’s are still aspiring to represent their country in Test cricket and not just chasing the big dollars overseas. On the whole, the Argus Review lists many strategies to improve the current situation of Australian cricket. Although some of these strategies may take years before the effects are fully evident. It appears as though cricket in Australia is again heading in the right direction, and a return to the top of the world is inevitable.

Reference List[edit]


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