Cricketing journalism in Australia must surely be at its lowest ever ebb. The Fairfax papers (the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age), for so long standard bearers of Aussie sports writing do not, as far as we can tell, even employ a dedicated cricket reporter any more. Whatever happened to Chloe Saltau anyway? Instead the job is parcelled out to football reporters, or, if the story is big enough, whichever egotist wants to dip their oar in (usually Peter FitzSimons). The Murdoch papers, of course, barely warrant mention. Perhaps The Australian is better, but since it keeps itself behind a paywall, we have no idea, and we’re buggered if we are going to spend any money to find out.
It’s somewhat strange, then, that the best source of cricket news in Australia, is the official Cricket Australia website itself. Usually official pages are utter crap and feature only a few token fluff pieces on players, in between the usual rubbish nobody is interested in like mission statements, commercial partners and the like. Just look at the ECB’s own site. It’s awful, and only good for reminding you how the ECB’s long term vision is simply to enrich itself at the supporters’ expense. There are probably pages on there somewhere that express its support for puppy killing and eugenics. We just couldn’t find them, that’s all.
Not too long ago Cricket Australia seemingly looked at the utterly parlous state of sports reporting in Australia, with its sensationalism and click bait headlines, and decided screw it, if nobody was going to do the job properly then they’d do it themselves. What has emerged as a result is a very, very good website, and honestly if we didn’t happen to know that everyone reading this almost certainly has 51allout.co.uk set as their homepage, we’d recommend it instead.
The first time people probably heard about the site was when the ECB threw a tantrum over an article that contained a video compilation of Matt Prior being really rubbish during the Test series against Sri Lanka, called ‘The future is dire for Matt Prior’. All sorts of English commentators subsequently got bent out of shape over it, claiming that Cricket Australia shouldn’t have been engaging in such classless behaviour, but were more likely just upset that they hadn’t thought of putting the video together themselves first. Unfortunately the video in question no longer exists, hence we present this fair and even appraisal of Prior’s character instead.
But this incident showed what cricket.com.au actually is, or is at least trying to be, in that it’s not just a mouthpiece for Cricket Australia, but an actual legitimate website. All the articles on the site carry a postscript exclaiming that they represent the opinions only of the writer, not Cricket Australia. Articles on ecb.co.uk don’t carry that disclaimer. Cricket Australia wants its website to be seen as effectively autonomous, a genuine news source and not just another corporate mouthpiece. They have Channel Nine for that anyway.
Of course, it’s not perfect, and you’re not exactly going to read genuinely hard-hitting editorial content on there. Although it occasionally does stray into that territory, you won’t find articles tearing shreds out of Australian players. But it is often quite sarcastic and we’ve noticed an increasing tendency to take pot shots at Shane Warne that has warmed our cockles considerably. And compared to the mainstream press anyway, it is the only place where you will find actual discussion of not only Australian cricket, but cricket in general.
It’s also extremely well put together in regards to multimedia, and far, far ahead of Cricinfo in that regard. If you want highlights packages, usually uploaded within an hour or so, it’s pretty much your only option. This is on top of streaming domestic and tour games. We don’t particularly like how it’s the only option for digital radio streams, since for some bizarre reason the ABC isn’t allowed to host a digital stream of its own content anymore, but at least everything is in the one place. Which was probably the intention.
The only thing we don’t really like is the ball by ball coverage. It’s just awkward, and so whilst we would increasingly prefer not to have to use Cricinfo’s scorecard any more, with its bizarre commentary and increasingly inane attempts at humor, there isn’t yet a viable alternative as far as we can see, at least until we get our liveblogs going again. They do integrate highlights into the feed though, which is a nice touch. And it makes cricinfo’s belated attempts to provide wicket highlights look pretty poor in comparison. Wanna see every boundary from a recent match (for some reason)? They’ve got it all there.
Of course, if you’re not Australian, the site is of somewhat limited use, and most of the video footage is probably unwatchable outside of the country anyway. It’s not that it’s inherently biased (it is), it’s more that it predominately covers Australian cricket, with only occasional reports on other series. But there is nothing terribly wrong with that if that’s all you are looking for, and other official sites would probably do well to follow Cricket Australia’s lead. Looking around, both New Zealand and South Africa offer the same mishmash of scorecards and corporate bullshit that makes you wonder if anyone ever actually bothers to visit them. The BCCI site was, sadly, not as hilariously bad as we had hoped, but still seems similarly pointless. Whilst the last time we attempted to check the Cricket Zimbabwe site it set off all sorts of antivirus warnings. Which seems incredibly apt somehow.
Hopefully the site goes from strength and strength, and in future doesn’t back down from posting videos of Englishmen being crap (it was a pretty funny video, to be fair). Admittedly it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when you are reduced to praising an official website for providing better coverage than any of the mainstream outlets can manage, but if it keeps us from having to visit Cricinfo, we’re hardly going to complain.