October 5, 2013

Australian cricket

An ever increasing hankering to control

In the Australian, Gideon Haigh writes about how cricket boards are increasingly trying to control what is said and written about the game.

Take last Sunday. After the opening match of the Ryobi Cup, Tasmania's George Bailey gave reporters a straight answer to a straight question - something of which all our cricketers should be capable. Asked his view of the summer schedule, he gave it: the Big Bash League was too long, the Ryobi Cup too short, the Sheffield Shield too concentrated. Whether you agree or disagree, the view is at least arguable and hardly an outlier among contemporary cricketers, according to opinions sifted from first-class players by the Australian Cricketers Association, on whose executive Bailey sits. Bailey's remarks were news, a CA player picking a bone with the CA schedule, although he actually chose his words quite carefully, acknowledging the significance of "the commercial side" of the BBL and stressing his appreciation of the priorities of the broadcasters: he merely called for "a balance". The problem was, as CA saw it, that the remarks impinged on the commercial value of a cricket "product". Thus Bailey spent a good deal of Sunday night dealing with his irate paymasters, peeved that he had picked his nose in the company carpark.

There's a piquancy in that Bailey's remarks obtained their best run on Cricinfo, cricket's most prolific eyewitness, started 20 years ago by volunteers, and owned since 2007 by ESPN, an arm of Disney. Because CA doesn't much like Cricinfo either, regarding it as a competitor of its own website, cricket.com.au; it has designs on capturing ever more online cricket traffic, rather as the Australian Football League has done at afl.com.au, by recruiting its own reporting and editorial staff to generate original content. It's good news that CA plans to improve its dull-as-digital-dirt profile, which looks like it was designed on a Commodore 64. But the AFL's website works because of the sheer abundance of news thrown off by an established multi-team national competition; CA still largely depends on the fortunes of a middling national team with one marquee player. And why "freeze out" Cricinfo, as it is being put?

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