Are Australians leaving cricket for other sports?
Lying prostrate on my bed, the 1000 decimal sound woke me up as ‘India, India, India…’ was blaring out of my TV set. I got up to turn it off, but instead saw my father ready to burst out with excitement as Sehwag and Tendulkar walked into the ground, which was till now stifled of India’s despicable bowling performance in the 2003 World-Cup Final against Australia.
Half asleep, I was too naive to judge what was happening inside the screen. The humongous score of 359 had already dented the confidence of the Indian team and the fans alike, and all that was left was the slow kill at the hands of the mighty Australian bowlers.
The gentleman on the ground, Ricky Pointing was confabulating with his teammates about the field positions and everyone was quietly obliging to his commands. Two giants – Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds – were staring right at the batsmen so as to unsettle them and make them nervous.
Suddenly, an ursine figure emerged from the boundary and his demeanor overshadowed the confidence of the batsman on the pitch. Any hope that was left was destroyed by Glenn McGrath, as he removed Sachin Tendulkar in his very first over.
Slowly and steadily, players came and left soon enough. The scorecard read 208-5, and any hopes of a resurgence was quashed by Brad Hogg who was replacing Australia’s main spinner Shane Warne in the World Cup, as he sent back Yuvraj Sigh back to the pavilion.
All the players of that era have now retired and the current set of players have not been able to live up to their legacy. Though the team has always been under the limelight of controversies from the start, the situation was never been so desperate for Australians that they would resort to ball tampering to win a series.
Unlike before, the current Australian team have only three players who would make headlines of their performances – Steve Smith, David Warner, and Mitchell Starc. With Smith and Warner out for a year, and Starc marred by the injuries, the absence of them leaves only a few players like Finch, Maxwell, and Hazlewood, to maintain the dignity of their cricketing past.
Since the Sandpaper Gate, Australia have lost a series to South Africa, England, and a Tri-Series to Pakistan, which shows how dire their situation has now become due to the exit of their two quality players. The case wasn’t the same before. They had a strong bench with players like Shane Watson waiting for someone to invite an injury for him to establish a place in the team.
The continuous turmoil between players and CA regarding their pay, and the recent sandpaper scandal, has disappointed the audiences, have scarred the future generations, and have magnetized people to look for other alternatives.
Though cricket still remains one of the most popular sports in Australia, other sports like rugby, Australian Football league (AFL), golf and tennis have been successful in making an impression among the sports enthusiasts in Australia.
AFL remains the top searched tournament and has the highest attendees in Australia, followed by cricket in the terms of search. Rugby, another popular sport in the country, is the sixth most searched sport and is second runner-up in attendance, with the first runner-up being Horse Racing.
Golf is the fifth most searched sport and remains five positions ahead of cricket in participation with cricket being at seventh. Tennis is slowly picking up with other sports and is fighting hard in the ring to take its share of support. It is the eighth most searched and third most participated sport in the country, which again puts it four positions ahead of cricket.
According to a study, children aged between 6-13 in Australia, prefer soccer over any other sport. Soccer is at the helm of every other sport with a 48.7% participation. Swimming shares the same amount of popularity in the country. Basketball is another contender which engages 30.5% of the children. Cricket is at the third position with 25% of its share. Apparently, cricket is now considered as a pass time in Australia. Slowly and steadily, cycling is also picking its pace with 55% of Australians owning a cycle for the purpose of competition.
Australia has always been a hub for sports. With all the ongoing scandals and pay disputes, the situation has paved a way for other sports to fill the void.
For fans like me who have grown watching the intense battles between Brett Lee and Tendulkar, we would love to see the resilient Australian team giving a tough fight to teams like India, England and South Africa. A game, which has limited popularity in the world, would not want to lose another contender like West Indies. The Australian team surely does not want to go down that alley. The task of bouncing back will be onerous considering the current chunk of callow players, but I believe, CA would be able to bring the deluge of talent back to this sport.
Surely, one would want to remember this team as I and a million others belonging to that generation do and not the the way in which the current generation does, which is full of disappointments and scandals.