Australian cricket lacking passion and privacy

A couple of talking points, after I’ve told you that Channel Nine News has showers forecast for every day of the first Test.

Last night was the Tourism Queensland pre-Ashes do for the media. Meet a Koala. Meet a Python. Meet Jeff Thomson, that sort of thing. Oli Broom was there too speaking about Cycling to the Ashes, as he nears the end of 14-months in the saddle.

Battling severe jetlag, I got into conversation with Lachlan Begg from Queensland Cricket about the contrast between the ticket situation for this Brisbane Test compared to four years ago. Then the first four days were sold out months in advance, now there are still tickets available for every day, albeit only restricted views on day one. 14,000 tickets still available for day four tells its own story.

For Begg, four years ago the Aussie public were spitting fire they were so determined to watch their blokes win back the Urn. This time round, there just isn’t the same passion. It’s something noticeable in a few days here, a recurrent theme has been Aussies of both sexes confiding that they don’t really care about the cricket, a bit like meeting Eskimos who don’t eat fish. Maybe it’s their team – with the exception of Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger there are few likely to capture the imagination. Can you imagine any child growing up wanting to be Marcus North? In fact if it wasn’t for Graeme Swann this whole series would be looking drier than a dead dingo’s donger.

Which brings me neatly to the most extraordinary story to surface in the last few days, that Channel Nine are fighting to get cameras in the dressing rooms as they bid to raise interest levels in the game. “Dressing-room cameras will become part of our cricket coverage at some point, it is only a matter of when,” says the Nine Network’s director of sport Patrick Crawley, on revealing he had already held discussions with Ricky Ponting about the idea. You have to admire Crawley’s innovation and optimism – from a voyeuristic perspective it would be must-watch TV, especially post-wicket or mid-collapse – but at what cost would this be to the fabric of the game? Not to sound like an arch-traditionalist, but the cricket dressing room has long been the place for team-bonding and behind-closed-doors belligerence, mainly because of the length of time the players have to spend in there. In this way it differs from those American sports where cameras have long been access all areas. Yet however much some might like the extra attention, is turning the cricketer’s only refuge into a glorified reality TV show really fair or desirable in the long term?

And just when you thought the Australian preparation couldn’t get any worse, along comes pro-batter and a farce of almost English proportion. England have been using pro-batter for months – it’s the screen that shows a video of the bowler running in before the bowling machine shoots a ball from where his hand comes down. It seems the Aussies haven’t quite got the hang of it yet – first Ricky Ponting almost got cleaned out after a technical malfunction saw the screen go blank just before the bowling machine dug a bouncer in at him. Then, Shane Watson stormed off in a huff after being bowled and caught behind off the only two balls he faced. Even more amateurishly, while England have been practising against footage of the real Australian attack, the Aussies are having to make do with footage of Australian fringe-bowlers including Darren Pattinson’s younger brother James. It’s almost too good to be true.

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