The Aussies are here, but does the public care?
The Champions League has come to a conclusion, and even before the dust settles India and Australia lock horns in a seven-match series. And it’s not just any series, it’s between the No. 1 team in the world and the No. 2 team, with a chance for India to climb to the top. Does it feel like that?
In the recent past, India-Australia clashes have become the premier contest in world cricket, with action both on the field and off it. Australia’s transition phase, with several of their legends moving on, has coincided with India’s ascendancy, making matches both home and away tightly contested. In limited overs cricket Australia have made a strong impression despite losing some of their best, and India’s domination in the shorter versions of the game – their results in the last two ICC events notwithstanding – has meant that no team can afford to take them lightly.
Just looking back briefly at recent India-Australia clashes, it’s clear how much the games mean to both teams. Tempers have boiled over, serious skirmishes on the field have meant frequent visits to the match referee, and everything from umpiring dramas and race rows have broken out.
With all this setting the stage, the home series should already have heated up. Traditionally the jousting begins in press conferences and interview well before the first ball is bowled, but this time has been different. While India have closeted themselves in a quiet camp in Mumbai the Australians have landed and are on a charm offensive, with no barbs being thrown, no provocative statements being issued.
In an international calendar that is so packed that players are literally going from one tournament or series into another without time to catch their breath, the needle is slowly being eroded. Is this a good thing?
The rhetoric surrounding India-Pakistan cricket had reached such a frenzy in the mid-1990s that there was a serious danger of cricket being made out to be more than it is. But then India and Pakistan started playing each other so often, started from 2004, that the public grew cold to the contests.
With the schedule for the next eight years being settled on, and Australia wanting to play India as much as possible – for commercial reasons more than anything else – there’s a serious danger of the contest going the India-Pakistan way.
Already, you can sense the excitement levels dropping. Previously, when the Australians were in town, there was no avoiding them as they made headlines everywhere they went. Now, it seems to be just another series to a public that has got more than it’s fair share of cricket. And that can’t be a good thing for the health of the game globally.