The much vaunted ‘international’ cricket season has commenced and if Friday night’s crowd of around 21,000 at the MCG is anything to go by, the bells are tolling for the health of the game as a spectator sport. The bash and crash form of the game usually draws big crowds, especially at Melbourne’s sports Mecca, but not this time!
I have read a number of excuses including that Melbourne sports mad public are tired of the non-stop grind of the annual sports calendar. This may be part of the cause but fails to acknowledge the gradual fall off in interest in the grass roots form of the game. I include Sheffield Shield in this.
Showing my age here, I can recollect watching a Sheffield Shield final involving Victoria at the MCG against Western Australia in 1980 where there were at least 50,000 people in attendance. What would the cricketing hierarchy give for crowds like that in today’s four day domestic fixtures? Regrettably, the last time I was at the MCG to see a shield game circa 2007, there were 15 people present on a Saturday afternoon.
The fortunes of the Australian side haven’t assisted as their recent history in Test matches and the limited form of the game haven’t set the world on fire. Spectators like winners and they fall off very quickly when the form line heads south.
By failing to capture the imagination of the sporting public in the domestic form of the game, Cricket Australia hasn’t generated sufficient interest in the game itself and it would appear only a matter of time until cricket becomes even more marginalised and follows the NBL onto the sporting scrap heap!