The State of Cricket - How did we get to Sandpaper Gate?

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The State of Cricket - How did we get to Sandpaper Gate?

Postby The Professor » Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:09 pm

Tomorrow I will be posting my usual round up of the week alongside the 2018 All Year Fantasy Competition. Obviously the week has been dominated by cricketing matters unlike any other we have seen in recent memory. The post could have been bogged down by Sandpaper Gate and - of course I will mention it due to the fact that two players point scoring has been suspended - but I felt it best to air the issue seperately.

What is the state of our game currently?

Well what was the state of our game in years gone by?

Stereotypically (but accurately) cricket was painted as a sport for the prosperous, the refined and the wealthy. This was the same for the spectator as much as the participant. For the crowd, demeanour and custom were the order of the day - something that could be seen by the dress codes, waiting list and subscription policies of grounds from Lords to the MCG. Cricket was another arm of the dying Commonwealth and had an archetypal quality all of it's own.

What changed?

As cricket became less popular - the crowd that turned up began to take on more of the flavour of the football (in England) or rugby (in Australia) crowd. This was encouraged by both broadcasters and by cricket boards and led to the Two-isation of the game. By the turn of the millennium, sledging and other 'unsportsmanlike' behaviour had become de rigeur and proved both intimidating and successful - quite a potent pairing in any competitive sport. This was embraced more by Australia than any other country. A land that characterises itself through an apparent practice of bonding with each other through the use of mutual criticism began to select cricketers, not just on their skill, but through their ability to be tough guys and give off a near egomanical persona. Perhaps the most galling example of this is David Warner, a man oozing with talent but whose pantomime villain character was how he chose to characterise himself. The fact that this avatar of cricket proved successful for Australia only compounded the problem.

This saw a naturally brutish core group of players have a disproportionate amount of sway over the team. In recent years this has seen super aggressive players (Warner, Haddin etc) overshadow equally as talented players who were not cut from this mould . The fact that their captain was one of these 'beta males' did not temper this aggressive streak. Instead more placid characters were encouraged to bring out their inner beast. The most abrasive example of this being when Nathan Lyon, one of the more reflective characters in the Australian set up, claimed that he wanted to "end the careers" of some English players. This was said with the conviction of a extra from Neighbours as it was not his real character - it was the character he had been asked to take on as a 'senior player' in an aggressive team.

This new era of Australian cricket was compounded by the hiring of Darren Lehmann - a man that was hired to propagate this attitude. An antithesis to Mickey Arthur, Lehhmann represented this new sense of Australian-ness and removed players that did not fit into this mode. The likes of Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch - both eminently talented cricketers and intelligent team players - who did not fit into this myopic mould and were summarily cast off.

The brainwashing of the Australian media and the Australian public that this was the way forward was all consuming. It fit into the 'man's man' image that Australia characterised themselves by and was hyped up by brash, loud, laddish Australian cricket pundits - the self same pundits who are now showing mock outrage at the state of their precious game. This was a set of cricketers packaged for a T20 generation - players who played roles that could be easily understood and characterised. Such Australian luminaries as Bob Simpson would have thought this current set up unthinkable and unsustainable. And how right he would have been.

All of this; the short-sightedness, the lack of consideration, the cloying public, the lack of humility and acceptance of arrogance have led us to this juncture.

It is, perhaps, heart-breaking that two of the more introspective characters in the set-up, Smith and Bancroft, have copped it for the excesses of Warner, the walking embodiment of all that went wrong with Australian cricket.

What needs to be learnt from this is that clever, reputable and well regarded are not dirty words. Something that Paine's words today have echoed:

“We’re a different group of players than Australia have had for a long time. We haven’t got too many guys that like to verbalise and have that sort of really hard-nosed Australian approach. We’re about creating an environment where guys can come in and play cricket and just be themselves. I think if we can achieve that then we’ll have guys having better results.”

Maybe this different group of players, under a different coach and with a different mindset can return us to the a familiar past - one that, whilst we might not crave it, we desperately need.
"It has been said of the unseen army of the dead, on their everlasting march, that when they are passing a rural cricket ground the Englishman falls out of the ranks for a moment to look over the gate and smile."
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Re: The State of Cricket - How did we get to Sandpaper Gate?

Postby Adi » Sat Mar 31, 2018 5:22 am

Cricketer and fans trolling #Sandpapergate

Ross Taylor signs on Sandpaper

https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/979572789953773569

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Re: The State of Cricket - How did we get to Sandpaper Gate?

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:51 am

Nice to read a long reflective post Prof.

Not sure Lyon is the really the kind of person we suppose. He looks like someone who delivers leaflets for Momentum. But listening to what he says he's probably another single minded jock like Davey.

I trace the decline in sportsmanship which makes up such a distinctive strand of the game right now back to Steve Waugh's mental-disintegraters of the 1990s who were so successful many others felt they had to copy them just to have a level chance. There is something of the lack of tolerance for kindness that we can see in the wider culture too.

Can't be forgotten that Waugh senior was a remarkable benefactor of disadvantaged girls in India. But he was scarily relentless on the field.
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Re: The State of Cricket - How did we get to Sandpaper Gate?

Postby Durhamfootman » Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:53 pm

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Re: The State of Cricket - How did we get to Sandpaper Gate?

Postby The Professor » Tue Apr 03, 2018 11:41 am

Mark Waugh (selector) on Australian team culture: "I might be missing something, but I don't see this team as any different as any other team from previous eras."
"It has been said of the unseen army of the dead, on their everlasting march, that when they are passing a rural cricket ground the Englishman falls out of the ranks for a moment to look over the gate and smile."
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