It goes without saying that Australia cancelling their tour of Bangladesh sucks balls. Just as Bangladesh seem to be putting a decent team together, this crap happens. Whether or not Bangladesh could have rolled over the Aussies is a bit of a moot point. If Australia had played as well as they did at The Oval, where they refused to give cheap wickets away and found that a pace attack doesn’t necessarily need to feature all of the quickest bowlers they can somehow cram into it to be effective, they probably would have proven too much for the hosts. But on the other hand, with a completely new top three on offer the possibility for hilarity was high. Either way, we are never going to know. Which, as we said, sucks balls.
But you can understand why Cricket Australia made the decision. It may not have even been theirs to make, in that it seems that the Australian government refused the team permission to travel in the first place. But the need to protect an asset as valuable as Stephen Peter Devereux Smith, who is worth his weight in pure unobtainium, or something, is absolutely paramount. If something untoward were to ever happen to Devereux we’d….well….we don’t know what we would do. But it would be sad. Really sad.
There is however, an upside to all this. The Matador Cup! The greatest domestic one-day competition in the world! Or at least, we assume it is. Australia won the World Cup, so presumably that makes their one-day comp the best, right? It’s hard to tell if the Matador Cup is actually working or not really. It’s just so bizarre we can only assume it’s working as intended. A competition held a month before the season proper begins, played entirely on suburban Sydney grounds, attended by, at best, a dozen or so spectators, the Matador Cup is so nondistinct it’s hard to know what to think of it.
But that is why we like it: it’s the ultimate hipsters competition. Nobody watches it, nobody cares, nobody remembers who won the last one (Yes they do: Western Australia – Nichael), which makes us so much cooler for noticing it. And by extension you, dear reader, for reading about it. And this year’s competition promises to be the most hipsterish ever, with a Second Hand XI, otherwise known as the Cricket Australia XI, taking part. This team is made up of all the cast-offs the other teams didn’t want, the young players not deemed good enough to warrant a spot in their squad. For some reason Cricket Australia believes that cobbling these together into a team and watching the other sides beat the ever loving crap out of them will somehow prove beneficial in the long run. A bit like how throwing early Christians to the lions could be considered ‘character building’.
But that’s the bonus of having a competition nobody cares about: you don’t have to try and manufacture even contests. Nobody will care if the Cricket Australia XI get smashed (and they will) because nobody will be watching anyway. Except perhaps for concerned parents and significant others. It’s the sort of experiment you couldn’t get away with in a genuine competition that actually cared about attracting spectators or satisfying sponsors. And for that reason alone it may prove to be a stroke of genius.
As the squads were originally announced it looked far removed from genius, as states were including players in their squads who were likely to see very little actual game time, purely to stop Cricket Australia from nicking them for their newest pet project. But now the Bangladesh series is off, all the international players have been added to the mix, meaning the lesser lights will be pushed back out again, and into the arms of the Cricket Australia XI. New South Wales will have to ditch no fewer than five players to make way for the internationals coming back into the fold, meaning fringe players will now likely see much more game time than they would have previously. Plus it means that the Cricket Australia XI might actually be competitive. Although in their first outing, against a NSW team that contained no less than 10 internationals, they were unsurprisingly annihilated, losing by just the 279 runs.
Of course, the other benefit is that we get to see players like Devereux, Mitchell Starc, Glenn Maxwell etc. playing domestic cricket, which is awesome. Throw in other potential points of interest, like what, if anything, will Marcus Stoinis do, the chance to see if Jake Doran meets the already massive hype and the return of players like Joel Paris and you have a pretty interesting setup.
Naturally we’d prefer to see Australia playing Test cricket in Bangladesh, and hopefully some sort of arrangement can be made in the near future where the series might be staged in a neutral country. Or perhaps even in Australia, if room can be found on the schedule. But even whilst writing that, it’s obvious that it won’t happen and Bangladesh will be left to wither on the vine like a discarded sock. The situation, again, sucks balls. But the Matador Cup is, at least, some sort of compensation. Even without this mess it was looking an interesting competition. But now it will be just so much…betterer.