The Australian Summer. Forever affiliated with the unique sound of willow on leather, steeped in history as an institution of this nation. Yet in this very moment, deep into our hot summer, at the heart of January, it is a different leather, the white ball, which is intermittently heard throughout the days of January down under. At a time in which many of us enjoy our time away from the workplace or school, a yearning for entertainment at this time of the year is peak. Cricket is forthcoming to provide copious entertainment throughout January, namely the nightly Big Bash League and the surplus of One Day Internationals. However, despite the blossoming commercial success of the BBL, crowds and interest of these ODI’s is desperately low. This follows a similar trend of the earlier Test summer, where, apart from marquee events (such as the day night Tests or Boxing day), crowds were concerningly low.
The renowned catchphrase ‘the summer of cricket’ is synonymous in Australia. Yet, only a two months of our summer remaining, and the summer of ‘TEST’ cricket was completed. Surely, with Test cricket being the pinnacle of the game, it is reticent of Cricket Australia not to take advantage of the month of January. There were questions asked when Australia’s doomed three Test series against South Africa began in lacklustre fashion, at the beginning of November (November 3rd to be precise). Visibly, the crowds at the WACA in Perth were disconcerting, below 14,000 all five days of the Test. The question must be posed as to why the crowds to the opening Test of the ‘summer’, against one of Australia’s greatest Test rivals, were so lacklustre. Perhaps the fact that the Test began on at 11am on a Thursday morning during Spring, when many are at work or school, provides us with a clearer answer… Likewise, Hobart saw disappointing crowds, below 10,000 for the duration, for their Test the following week in November. Alarmingly, two Tests into the season, and not one crowd at the WACA or Bellerive Oval exceeded 15,000. Thankfully for Cricket Australia, the showcase day-night Tests and marquee Melbourne and Sydney Tests brought far more pleasing crowds, all four Tests exceeding 35,000 at some point. Yet these Tests were scheduled to draw crowds, either during the festive season, or the evening, when fans have the time to make their way to Test match cricket. This must be reflected upon by Cricket Australia, and the question posed; why is their virtually no Test match cricket in Australia in January? Perhaps scheduling the bulk of our Test matches throughout January, the heart of the Australian summer, would solve the dilemma of lacklustre crowds.
As a proposal, the summer of cricket could begin, as it traditionally has, in Brisbane, but in the middle of December. If Cricket Australia, like last season, see it fit to have this Test as a day night match, they can expect astronomical crowds. The traditional Melbourne and Sydney Tests adjacent to the New Year can remain, both almost certain to always attract large numbers. However, following Sydney’s Test in early January, the summer of Test cricket would then drastically kick on. Both the Perth (with the attraction of a new arena in the coming years) and Hobart (or the proposed Canberra) Tests can proceed the Sydney Test, and be played in the middle of January, ensuring they are played at a time of optimal interest in Test cricket, whilst enabling patrons, many of which will be on holidays, to more easily attend. This is a far more fan friendly and feasible proposal, as opposed to the previous early November scheduling. To top this schedule off, Adelaide could regain its historic Australia Day Test on the 26th January as a day-nighter to close a proper ‘summer of cricket’.
Subsequently, the bulk of the ODI’s could be transferred to the middle of November, and played on Fridays and Sundays, when it is accessible for fans to attend, and get a taste of the summer of cricket to come. The BBL could also be moved, to begin near the end of November, and be completed by early January. Due to its commercial success, and shorter nature, a slight alteration to the BBL schedule would still see its enormous crowds flock. Pushing the Test summer back a month would also provide the opportunity of a greater quantity of Sheffield Shield matches to be played prior to the Test season, a vital aspect in the success of our team. Significantly, this proposal would open the month of January to be left solely for the pinnacle of the game, Test cricket. Cricket Australia must be open to change, and see the possibilities of altering their summer schedule. If they do so, Test matches may once again thrive during our summer of cricket.