In ye olde times the Australian domestic ODI season was something to look forward to. A chance to see players like Mark Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Andy Bichel strut their stuff. Er, yeah. Anyway, it was always greeted with masses of enthusiasm and packed houses across the land. Nowadays barely anyone can bother to turn up and the formerly imposing hosts have turned into also-rans, being picked on by whoever happens to be in town at the time.
The recent Australia vs. Sri Lanka series was a non-event up there with the likes of the Y2K bug, and that Mayan nonsense last year. Rather than subject you (or better, us) to the torture of trying to recollect anything of note from the recent series (it ended 2-2 by the way), we have instead opened a bottle of our patented home brew gin (you can barely taste the paint thinner) and tried to make some sense of it all. Needless to say, we weren’t all that successful.
Matt Larnach: Just to get us started here, all five venues had larger crowds for Big Bash games than when they hosted an ODI game in this series. Domestic cricket outshining international cricket in Australia has been unheard of for 50 years, but is now the norm when the one dayers roll around. Nobody seems to care about one day cricket, or this current Australian outfit, which looks utterly woeful compared to sides in the past. Is there any chance of the format experiencing a revival in this part of the world at least?
Nichael Bluth: Short answer: no. Long answer (as we get paid by the word): to me, this is a very obvious display of the effects of having too much cricket. With six Tests, ten ODIs and three T20s in the Australian summer, it’s absolutely no surprise that those not of Sri Lankan origin have chosen not to fork out $80 to watch two average sides trade batting collapses and have instead chosen to spend $25 on a Big Bash ticket. It’s also clear that the Big Bash’s aggressive marketing is having a detrimental effect on the national side. Cricket Australia don’t seem to be able to balance the marketing for the two, hence it’s been ‘in your face’ Big Bash for the past couple of months with a few polite ‘dress up party’ ads for the ODIs. The fact that England are in town next year should alleviate that problem to some extent, but I still think it’s a long term trend.
ML: As James has pointed out elsewhere, ODI games seem to veer dramatically between the decent and the utterly rubbish these days. One interpretation could be that there are not enough players who can think on their feet and build a total, especially after things go tits up at the top of the order. It seems that there are a lot of good ‘finishers’ in the game, but very few batsmen who can hold an innings together, Michael Bevan style. Fair assessment based on what we saw here?
NB: Yeah, I think there’s some merit in that. Quite a few of the ODI teams seem quite confused about their approach these days, with some going for the ‘elongated T20’ approach and others for the ‘shortened Test innings’ angle. Australia seem to be the former, especially with the likes of Henriques and Maxwell in the side (compared to how Luke Wright doesn’t get a look in for England). I’m not sure it’s a great tactic, especially in conditions where a bit more application is required.
NB: No, but he’s very good in conditions that suit him. Those conditions are relatively uncommon though – they were clearly something terrifyingly new to the majority of the Aussie batting lineup.
ML: I didn’t think he is much more than someone who can wobble it about a bit either way. A more effective version of what Ravi Bopara does, which also caused Aussie batsmen to have kittens last year. But yeah, it’s a massive massive weakness, with no obvious solutions available.
NB: I suppose you could ask if more Aussies need to play County cricket, where they can learn by being continually humiliated by Alan Richardson and Saj.
ML: Personally I think if Sri Lanka had been brave enough to give their legion of mystery spinners, like Akila Dananjaya, a go, they would have romped home. But as it was, Australia were able to eek out just enough runs from the likes of Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera to survive. It seems like a massively missed opportunity to give Mahela Jayawardene a series win in his final spell as captain.
NB: I agree. Sri Lanka were well on for 3-1 before the weather intervened and ruined everything. Having said that, they seem to lack a bit of what the Aussies call ‘mongrel’ – that scrappy. nasty way of winning from difficult positions. When they were on top they were fine but they were quite meek in the two games they lost. At least Australia had a real go at defending 74 all out, even if there was more chance of Katie Melua returning just one of my phone calls than them actually winning.
NB: Australia’s thinking is all over the place, like a typical Mitchell Johnson spell. The Khawaja/Devereux/neither nonsense, chucking Wade in to open for no apparent reason in the final game, the conveyor belt of bowling options: all these are so England circa 1995 that it’s untrue. At the moment they’re just about getting away with it thanks to the weakness of the sides they’ve come up against, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen. And a damn funny one at that.
But the Kane Richardson debacle did sum this series up beautifully. And loathe that I am to praise Australia, I thought Phil Hughes looked much more at home in the ODI format than he does in Tests. Actually, that’s damning him with faint praise; I’ll take that.
ML: Sri Lanka definitely can take some positives out of the series, but I think they are effectively balanced by the fact that Angelo Mathews doesn’t convince anybody that he will be an effective captain. Not, I guess, that Sri Lanka really need him to be. ODI cricket hardly provides a challenging field to compete against these days. Australia are now ranked third in the world after all.