The One-Day International (ODI) tri-series for the 2011/12 international summer of cricket finished up only recently on March 8. The real winners this summer were the administrators, with players and fans alike growing very weary of too much cricket.
Cricket administrators reaped the profits of plenty of matches. The schedule involved six tests, 15 ODI’s, two international T20’s and the inaugural T20 Big Bash competition. Clearly, Cricket Australia had ample opportunity to line its pockets with advertising and media rights revenue.
The tri-series format had a stint in the wilderness since 2007-2008. The format initially lasted 29 seasons before the public and administrators concluded that it was simply worn out. Only when the powerful Indian and Sri Lankan administrators came to Cricket Australia was the format revived. This was due to the high profitability of broadcasts for when India played either Sri Lanka or Australia. The commercial interests of the administrators were well looked after.
However, the unprecedented commercialisation of the cricket this summer detracted from the enjoyment of many fans. Most aspects of the cricket were geared towards making money out of spectators. It was the ‘Vodafone Test Series’ and the ‘KFC T20 Internationals’, live on Channel Nine and brought to you by VB. The coverage featured ‘Bupa trackers’ on players, ‘KFC classic catches’ and the ‘KFC hot spot’. ‘Swisse Ultivites’ also got their regulation run.
These campaigns may seem harmless and quintessential. However, the prolific exposure they garnered over 47 days of live, televised cricket became irritating for many.
The fact that Cricket Australia received such a large sum from advertising and television meant less care was given to gate revenue. Cricket Australia got away with charging excessive prices for tickets with minimal regard to crowd sizes. Consequently, spectators had to fork out over $100 for a seat j in stadiums which could have been fuller, with invariably better atmospheres.
Cricket Australia failed to deliver fair and adequate attention to ticketing. Days one and two of the Sydney Test saw certain stands almost empty – a seemingly bizarre situation for the spectacle that is the New Year test. What the mainstream media failed to report was that scalping was prolific, with tickets often left unsold. Regrettably, Cricket Australia failed to offer a concession price for tickets above the base “bronze” level.
The long summer also took its toll on players. Modern cricket demands that players adapt their playing styles to three significantly different forms of the game from week to week. It is expected that players are fit enough to consistently compete at their best in a tight international schedule.
However, as the case of David Warner illustrated, too much cricket can cause any player to burnout regardless of their fitness levels. Warner contributed significantly to all formats of cricket this summer but it came as no surprise when he strained his groin considerably in the last two games of the season.
Michael Clarke experienced similar misfortunes after tearing his hamstring towards the end of the ODI series. Clarke will now have to carry his injury with him across the globe to the Caribbean to lead Australia against the West Indies.
In the 1968/69 international summer, the West Indies toured Australia and played five tests (25 days of cricket) over an 84 day period. The 2011/12 international summer saw Australia involved in 43 days of cricket (across three formats) over a 97 day period. Unquestionably, Cricket Australia has commercial imperatives that must be met, but it must look beyond its own interests to realise that the cricket is becoming too much for all involved.
Fabian Di Lizia is on Twitter: