From the 1932-33 Ashes series in Australia to the Kerry Packer ‘World Series of Cricket’ concept in 1977, Australia has been instrumental in the popularity of cricket. Although believed to have been played in England since the 1600’s, cricket’s popularity took off in the late 1700’s. Word spread to all parts of the British Empire and colonies. By the late 1800’s international test matches cricket were being was played between England and Australia. Australia has won many cricket trophies over the decades. Our world-renowned skill has humble beginnings as a colonial game.
The first recorded Australia cricket match took place in 1803. The Currency Cricket Club, Military Cricket Club and the Australian Cricket Club were formed in Sydney; Hyde Park and the Racecourse in Sydney were the chosen venues.
Inter-colonial cricket matches followed on from the club cricket. The international matches against England started in 1877 at the MCG. The first series ended in a 1-1 draw. The return series was played in 1882 at the Oval in London. England lost the match prompting, ‘The Sporting Times’ Newspaper to declare in a mock obituary ‘The Death of English Cricket, The body will be cremated and the Ashes returned to Australia’. The term was adopted and one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in world sport was born. The two sides play for the urn (one of the most revered cricket trophies) home and away every 4 years. Cricket meandered on its merry way for pretty much the next century (with only world wars halting international cricket). One day cricket was introduced after the war and was played in white clothing with a red ball.
World Series Cricket
In 1977 Kerry Packer introduced his World Series Cricket Concept. He recruited high profile players and with help from Tony Greig they formed three teams. The three teams were WSC Australia, WSC West Indies and WSC World XI. The games were played in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Initially in Sydney they were played at the RAS Showground. They eventually moved to the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The format was a success with excellent television viewing figures. However, it was more Packers innovative concept that shook up the world of cricket. The players were poorly paid prior to WSC; Packer rallied to pay the players what they were worth commercially. This is a legacy lives on today in modern cricket contracts. He also introduced coloured clothing, the white ball, flood lights, helmets, extravagant cricket trophies, drop in pitches and motorised drink carts.
The ICC were clearly impressed. By the 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand all the international teams were wearing coloured jerseys with individual names on their backs. White balls, floodlights and fielding restrictions were also introduced and modern one day cricket as we know it was born.
The next big change in cricket occured in England in 2003. Due to low crowds at county games the ECB decided they needed to spruce up cricket to make it appealing to the masses. 20-20 cricket (T20) was created. It is a straight forward 20 overs per side format with the white ball. It was an immediate success with the first game at Lords attracting the largest one day crowd since 1953. The packed stadiums and exciting cricket led to domestic leagues being formed in Pakistan, India, Australia and worldwide. The IPL (Indian Premier League) amassed a crowd of 100,000 was recorded at Eden Gardens in 2008.
A similar issue is currently facing modern test cricket; the lack of crowds at test cricket venues is a problem for the ICC. This problem is especially prevalent in Australia where domestic cricket (Sheffield Shield) has very low attendances. However one day cricket (especially the domestic T20 tournament) still attracts huge crowds.
The answer to the ICC’s problems could be day-night test cricket. The concept has was in the pipeline for almost a decade. The main issue was the ball colour. Obviously it could not be played with a white ball because of the white shirts. The solution was a pink cricket ball. The pink ball has been tested and almost perfected. Channel 9 and Cricket Australia worked in tandem to make it a reality. This is a stark contrast to the Kerry Packer WSOS days.
The first day-night test took place at the Adelaide Cricket ground; by all accounts it was a great success. The balance between bat and ball was perfect and the testing evening conditions added excitement and strategies to the game never seen before in test cricket.
The Australian team won the test match and retained the Trans-Tasman Trophy. Only time will tell if the concept spreads, but it seems to make sense to the cricket fans of all varieties.