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"Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn't blow in the wind ... It is your inner image of yourself..."
It may come as a surprise to many Webdiarists, but I have been a cricket fan (though never a tragic) for much of my life. My introduction to the sport, as for so many people born in the 1950s, was through the suave tones on the radio of such commentators as Alan McGilvray, Lindsay Hassett, John Arlott, Tony Cozier ... My early interest in the game impressed my parents so much that I was taken – at the age of five – to watch the one-day match between the Southern Highlands and the inimitable West Indies in the summer of 1960-1961 at Manuka Oval. (I lasted until the luncheon break. Then my mother took me home, leaving my father to watch the rest of the match in peace.)
Cricket continued as a background to my life during the 1960s and 1970s – an exciting yet reassuringly predictable part of summer. Then came Packer’s Circus, and the move from cricket’s status as an essentially amateur but – where professional – lowly-paid sport to one where the top players suddenly received substantial rewards. With that change came, to my eyes at any rate, a change as well to the nature of the game: the gradual disappearance of “sporting” behaviour, the longevity of the top players (because of the money – after all, what other career options do most of them have after 15 plus years in the game?) to the detriment of youngsters wanting to have a go at representing their countries at the highest level – in short, the commodification of the game for the benefit of promoters and media proprietors. During the 1980s and 1990s I rapidly lost interest, and though I could generally tell you the results of a series, I rarely listened or watched any more.
Then, in the late 1990s, Adam Gilchrist erupted onto the scene. My interest in cricket was revived – not merely because he was a very good keeper (not the greatest, but still pretty damn’ fine) and an enchanting batsman, but because of the spirit in which he played the game. He walked – even when the umpire had given him not out – if he believed that he was truly out.
After delivering the 2009 Cowdery Lecture (republished below) – which even cricket traditionalists may find interesting – Gilchrist, in conversation with Mark Nicholas, was asked about the time when he “walked” in the 2003 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka, even though the umpire had ruled in his favour. This is my transcript of Gilchrist’s explanation, which I first heard on radio this morning. To me this illustrates his personal integrity, which why I admire him as a cricketer, and more importantly, as a person (any errors in the transcript are my responsibility):
The 2009 Cowdrey Lecture
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen. Firstly I wish to sincerely thank the MCC for giving me the opportunity and great honour of delivering the 2009 Cowdrey Lecture.
I would like to acknowledge my parents, Stan and June, who are back home in Australia, and thank them for giving me all the opportunity I could ever imagined and for instilling in me the values and qualities that allowed me to achieve in life. For that I dedicate this lecture to them both.
Given I was only three years old when Colin played his last test match at the MCG in 1975, I obviously never had the pleasure of seeing him play – although many have relayed to me stories of his unique elegance and poise at the wicket – his trademark cover drive and effortless timing to all parts of the ground, in all match situations.
But for many Australian cricketers of my generation, the quality most associated with Colin was his great courage and willingness to put his country’s fortunes in front of his own.
It is now well and truly established in Ashes folk law what Colin did in my hometown of
On the fastest wicket in the world, facing perhaps the fastest and most dangerous bowlers to have ever played the game and just one week shy of his 42nd birthday, Colin defied the Thomson and Lillee juggernaut for over two hours, in a display that revealed as much about the quality of the man as it did about his unique batsmanship and strokeplay.
Without the aid of a helmet and in the twilight of his career, Colin selflessly and without hesitation, put not only his enormous reputation on the line, but literally his life as well, and in so doing earned the respect of every Australian cricketer and cricket fan.
Colin’s bravery and skill – so readily on display for the world to see all those years ago in Perth – in many ways epitomises the very essence of what I think, still remains the greatest contest in cricket – the Ashes.
Test matches between the two oldest combatants have defined not just a cricketing, but also a sporting tradition in both countries that will undoubtedly be fiercely renewed in around two week’s time.
Whilst on the Ashes I’ll take the opportunity to debunk the myth that I and many of my teammates from a pretty successful era of Australian cricket somehow took a blasé attitude when playing against
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Not only do we have the 2005 Ashes to show this was clearly not the case, but I can promise you that every time I stepped out to play in an Ashes test match I was always nervous and desperate to do well against the old enemy.
From my first game in 2001 at
The last series here four years ago doesn’t hold too many happy memories for me personally. And on reflection, I guess I can put that down to a certain tall, burly lad from
However, what I do recall with great affection about that tour was seeing the crowds turning up in their thousands, desperately trying to get into Old Trafford and the Oval, in the hope of seeing their side reclaim the Ashes after so many years. As the house full signs went up and people in their thousands were turned away, it reinforced to me just how resilient and important the Ashes are, both in
As I stated earlier, it all starts again in
I think most of us would agree that the 50-over game is slowly starting to feel the pinch. Diminishing crowds, diminishing interest in many countries and as a result diminishing financial returns for the game. Much the same thing could also be said about test cricket – although I believe that trend began further back in time.
At the same time, the last five years has seen the emergence of T/20 cricket. From its humble origins in 2003, it has rapidly developed into a trans world game, particularly on the back of the highly successful Indian Premier League.
I do some work for Channel 9 TV and in the last two years, T/20 cricket has sometimes outdated one-day cricket nearly 2-to-1 in
It is well documented that the last 50-Over World Cup in the
If we’re being honest with ourselves, this downward trend in the one-day game probably started a lot earlier than 2007. For a few years prior to this, I can clearly remember seeing half empty stands during one-day internationals, where previously they were sell-outs and even queues outside those grounds.
I think nearly everyone agrees that over the years, one-day cricket has slowly but surely become more formulated and predictable, resulting in a less pleasing package for the cricket fan. An abbreviated form of test cricket, it is still played over an 8 hour period and certainly remains extremely difficult for people to watch from start to finish, particularly on television.
Well, some of you might be saying "so what?" – test cricket is the ultimate game and I never really cared much for one-day cricket at all.
And that would be fine except for one problem.
Even its most ardent admirers would have to acknowledge that test cricket is now redundant as the financial driver of the game. For the last 30 years, one-day cricket has clearly been the financial engine of the cricketing world.
When World Series Cricket began in the late seventies, Kerry Packer did a lot more than just turn on the lights and put our cricketers into coloured clothing. He established a business model for world cricket that had at its core, the 50-over game. This financial template was first adopted in
Even in countries like
Given this, it can be taken as read that the health and vitality of the 50-over game has the potential to affect every aspect of cricket. From the test cricket played at Lord’s and the MCG, to maintaining the viability of junior development programs in
I don’t think that anyone could possibly believe that cricket would be where it is today, had one-day cricket not made the enormous financial contributions to the game that it has over the past 30 years.
Imagine for a moment, if one-day cricket had never come along and we had to rely exclusively on test cricket to pay our way. Even for the harshest critics of the one-day game, this is a very hard thing to contemplate.
Whilst it seems that the 50-over game has been around forever, one-day cricket and the revenue streams it has created throughout the cricketing world – have only existed for less than one third of the modern cricket era.
So where then does T/20 fit into all of this in a financial sense?
Simply put, I believe that this format has the real potential to surpass 50-over cricket as the revenue generator for the game.
Many would argue that process has already started.
Like most things, only time will tell, but T/20 cricket certainly has the great advantage of being able to slot directly into the one-day financial template. A bit like ejecting the one-day DVD from your player, taking it out and inserting a T/20 DVD into the same machine.
Again I ask you to imagine, in a commercial context, if at this point in time there was no such thing as T/20 cricket.
For starters, if T/20 cricket did not exist, Cricket authorities would still be facing the constant challenge of needing to maintain and grow world cricket’s revenue base – amidst the backdrop of a decline in one-day and test cricket – but without the benefit of a very real substitute in the form of T/20. With fewer revenue options available, many of the ongoing and difficult issues facing our game would be looming even more ominously on the horizon.
In saying all of this, I am not trying to suggest that T/20 cricket is necessarily some type of panacea for all of the challenges currently confronting the game. Indeed, the advent of 20 over cricket itself must take some of the responsibility for the decline in the popularity of the longer formats. Personally, I feel its growth primarily came about because of the slow decline in the popularity of one-day cricket and the public’s hankering for something different.
Whilst I now appreciate and enjoy playing and watching T/20 cricket – especially after captaining the Deccan Chargers to the 2009 IPL title – I am at heart a traditionalist, who firmly believes that test cricket is the ultimate test of a player’s and team’s ability.
This is not to say that T20 isn’t a skilful game. It certainly is. For all their similarities, T20 still requires many different skill sets from the longer forms of the game. The fact that some very well credentialed test cricketers have struggled to adapt to the game, whilst others who will probably never come close to playing test cricket have thrived in T20 – is surely proof enough.
So, does 20-over cricket have anything else to offer the game, other than being the cash cow for cricket over the next few years?
I think it does.
My personal experience with T20 is perhaps indicative of many professional players. I was certainly a late convert – both in terms of my international career and perhaps more importantly in my thinking towards the game. I ended up playing only thirteen 20/20 internationals as the game was introduced to international cricket quite late in my career.
At the start, I think we all looked on the game as a bit of a novelty. Something that seemed to generate a high level of frenetic excitement on and off the field. Something that wasn’t to be taken too seriously.
Probably two things changed this initial perception. The first, the T20 World Cup in
Whatever its detractors may argue, the obvious benefits of the game have already become apparent in a very short space of time.
Clearly, the greatest distinction it has over one-day and test cricket is the length of time it takes to play.
I think that we sometimes don’t fully appreciate just how significant a point of distinction this really represents. Perhaps this is because we have all become so accustomed to the extended length of time our game usually takes. By playing a cricket match over a three hour time frame, 20/20 cricket brings the game into the 21st century in terms of its ability to adapt to the busy, time poor world in which we all live.
In short, this one characteristic alone opens up a whole world of possibilities and opportunities that were previously unavailable to cricket.
For the first time competitions like the IPL have been able to structure round robin, football-like seasons. As many as eight to twelve teams can now compete on a true home and away basis like the great domestic football leagues of the world. Indeed, the IPL in its structure and intent has been squarely based on its namesake and arguably the world’s greatest domestic sports competition – the English Premier League.
It is a game that can be learnt relatively quickly and we’ve already seen that non-test playing nations can become competitive far sooner than if they played one-day or test cricket. It has also been an enormous boost to woman’s cricket, where participation levels have increased dramatically and the profile at international level has risen substantially in the last couple of years as a direct result of the 20 over game.
The playing and viewing aspects of T20 cricket will continue to be debated for as long as the 20 over game is played. However, there is little doubt that it has rapidly rejuvenated crowd levels and increased television ratings. But, importantly – most importantly – it has introduced a number of new demographics to cricket that weren’t there before.
If you were a director of a large trans-global corporation, you would be constantly looking to expand your markets and secure your cash flows for the future. To survive long term in any business, you must not only maintain your clients, but keep growing your client base as well.
Amongst the trinity of cricket’s international formats, T20 alone has perhaps the greatest chance to achieve this for cricket.
I happen to believe that as a starting point, the single best way to spread the game globally is for the ICC to actively seek its inclusion as an Olympic sport.
For sure, this would be a massive challenge for cricket to take on and undoubtedly there would be a whole host of issues along the way to contend with, but what a great and worthwhile challenge it would be.
Without doubt, the Olympic movement provides one of the most efficient and cost effective distribution networks for individual sports to spread their wings globally. It would be difficult to see a better, quicker or cheaper way of spreading the game throughout the world.
For most sports seeking to get a berth at the Olympics, the greatest challenge is usually to try and convince the international Olympic Committee. In our case however, cricket as a sport mounts a very impressive and almost irresistible case for several reasons.
Firstly, the Olympic movement’s only remaining dead pocket in the world happens to coincide with cricket’s strongest – the sub-continent. This region, which includes
What better way for the IOC to spread the Olympic Brand and Ideals into this region, than on the back of T20 cricket?
The rewards for both the ICC and IOC getting this right would be enormous.
Above all else, if cricket became an Olympic sport, many countries would be playing cricket seriously for the first time in their history. By seriously, I mean that they would have to start developing a truly integrated cricket program as part of their participation in the Olympics.
Currently many associate members of the ICC rely heavily on a small group of expats to help keep the game alive and growing in their adopted countries.
For the first time, the introduction of T20 cricket as an Olympic sport could see the emergence of government backed, junior development programs in those countries and the beginning of true indigenous participation in the sport from schools to club and representative level.
I am not saying that all countries would suddenly adopt the game because it became an Olympic sport. But given cricket’s already established international footprint, they wouldn’t have to, and again it is more about the
On this point, a friend of mine recently cited
In an article I wrote last year for the Deccan Chronicle in
1. Would cricket’s participation in the Olympics lose money?
No, the international Olympic Committee (IOC) rewards international federations that compete at the Olympic Games and there would be a dividend for competing nations flowing from ICC to its members, just like at the ICC Cricket World Cup.
2. Would this compromise the Future Tours Program?
No, with T/20 you would only need a small window in August, once every four years, to play the Olympic tournament – possibly as few as ten days.
3. What would be the timeframe for cricket to become part of the Olympic Games?
The IOC decides on the sports for an Olympic Games seven years in advance, to allow people time to prepare.
4. How would players feel about competing at the Olympics?
The Olympics is the absolute pinnacle in sport. I have spoken to a number of Olympic champions and know how Sydney 2000 changed
5. Is it a realistic dream?
I really believe it is. The ICC has already taken the step to become a recognised Olympic sport and for that I commend them, for this is the first step on the road to becoming part of the Olympic programme.
The bid for cricket’s inclusion and subsequent Olympic participation should sit at the heart of the ICC’s global game development strategy, to naturally complement all the other development programmes that are currently being planned and delivered. Any narrow, self interest by countries with regards to their respective playing windows must give way to the bigger picture of making space in the cricket calendar every four years for the Olympics.
In my opinion, every cricket administrator should hold and promote the Olympic ambition for our sport.
By way of some further observations.
If cricket is to survive and prosper – and I am convinced it will – I believe that there needs to be:
1. A realisation that test cricket, arguably one of the greatest sporting contests ever devised, is by the same token an anachronism amongst modern professional sports. That many of its strengths also contain many of its weaknesses. That the five-day match, so steeped in history, on its own, will never come close to providing the cold hard cash needed to maintain and grow the game. That what we cricket lovers regard as the prince of games will always remain almost completely incomprehensible to people not familiar with it. Accordingly, it will continue to be the most impractical vehicle to use when trying to promote cricket throughout the world. That to preserve its future, which we must – less is in fact more – we should go back to the future where there were fewer test matches, but a lot more important ones, and where the best cricketers of the day played closer to 50 tests in their career, not 150.
2. That test cricket should be tampered with as little as is possible – its rules, customs and playing conditions – like major league baseball – should remain as close to how it has been played for the past 130 years. That many of cricket’s innovations should be applied only in the shorter forms of the game. This not only includes the expanded umpire referral system, but especially the mooted introduction of night test cricket and a different coloured ball needed to accommodate this. My personal experience nearly 15 years ago with night Sheffield Shield cricket was that it struggled because of the very different playing conditions between day and night. Often it made for an unfair contest, especially when batting, which always seemed much more difficult late in the evening than earlier in the afternoon. But all of this begs the bigger question – why play around with test cricket at all? Fine tune maybe, but not fundamental changes. As someone recently said, you don’t see the London Philharmonic doing a rappers remix of Beethoven’s 5th, so why should cricket do the same with its masterpiece?
3. An acceptance that professional players will increasingly make pragmatic decisions about their careers, which may involve playing less test cricket or even perhaps, none at all. That the arrival of rich, franchised based competitions like the IPL will hasten this trend and reduce the primacy of playing for your country or provincial team. That a young first class cricketer in
4. That the potentially enormous revenue streams from playing T20 cricket can actually help to protect and enhance the viability of test cricket into the future. That strong cash flows must be maintained by cricket administrations in all the major cricket playing nations to help underwrite the costs of junior development, first class and ultimately test cricket.
5. That cricket is unique amongst other professional sports in that it can successfully mutate itself into various forms and formats, to invigorate itself, its players and its supporter base. This is something that should be welcomed and appreciated as a strength and perhaps even a potential salvation for the game. That these differences and anomalies between the various formats should be applauded and enjoyed, not looked down upon or over-analysed by the cricket community.
In conclusion, I suppose those of you who have heard my lecture could perhaps say that I am fast becoming obsessed with 20/20 cricket.
Again let me make it clear – T20 cricket, or anything else the game throws up in the future, will never be test cricket, nor should it ever pretend, or try to be.
What I think I have been trying to say is that as members of the international cricket community, the most important thing is to approach any new development or change – of which T/20 cricket is the latest – as an opportunity rather than a problem.
Whatever happens, its emergence has squarely placed under the microscope our game’s ability to adapt and carve out our niche in the modern, ultra-competitive sporting world.
Are we to embrace change or shy away from it? Not change for change’s sake, but a willingness to really take on board, practical and necessary developments like 20/20, in order to keep world cricket healthy and vibrant.
As it has done before, cricket must constantly adapt to the times to remain relevant as a world sport. We all have to be pragmatic about this: 15-year-olds no longer listen to the cricket at night with their transistors tucked underneath their pillows. They are instead bombarded with a range of sports, social activities and events to watch and participate in that previous generations could barely contemplate. Most people can probably afford to go and watch three hours of cricket on the weekend – but to spend a day or more out of their busy lives to do the same thing is becoming increasingly problematic. A similar situation exists for those wanting to play the game at a club or recreational level. Cricket must accommodate these realities and factor them into how the game is played and watched into the future.
In many ways, Colin Cowdrey’s long and distinguished career mirrored many of the significant changes and adaptations that cricket has already made in the last 40 years. In over 130 years of Ashes contests, he is still the only Englishman to have toured
Notwithstanding all of the complex and challenging issues currently confronting world cricket, I think that if Colin were here today he would be genuinely excited by the way the game is developing and its prospects going forward.
For all I’ve learnt about him, it is clear to me that above all else, Colin was an optimist – a traditionalist, who both on and off the field, embraced the changes that had to be made to our game to ensure its future, but at the same time did that without ever losing sight of its core values and constants.
He and his legacy very much represent the true spirit of cricket. That statement, the spirit of cricket, means different things to different people.
Mr President, thank you again for giving me this great honour to address this gathering and thank you distinguished guests and ladies and gentleman.