Is Australia falling out of love with cricket?

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If the fallout from the Australian cricket team’s failure to qualify for the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup on home soil has shown us anything, it is that the average Australian appears to be a little less enraptured by their national men’s cricket team.

With a chance to defend the trophy at home, the team failed dismally; comprehensively smacked by New Zealand and unable to put decent margins on Ireland and Afghanistan in an attempt to scrape into the knock-out phase via the back door.

No shame there really, with T20 cricket the flukiest of all and the small moments playing out so much more significantly than during ODI or Test play, where the bash and brawn is less valuable than the brains required to compete and conquer the longer forms of the game.

In short, T20 is something of a a crap shoot and for cricket purists; a crap crap-shoot that sees the skills and traditions of the game thrown out the window and replaced by Americanised brutality and bravado that appeals only in the short term.

However, the vast sums changing hands in the shortest version of the international game ensure that Cricket Australia invests heavily in the success of the team that represents it, with the corporate realities of modern cricket potentially seeing the ‘hit and giggle’ contest as the source of revenue that allows the longer forms of the game to even exist.

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Especially as the modern attention span continues to shorten.

So sad is was then to see the paltry crowd of 18,672 at Adelaide Oval to watch the Aussies tackle Afghanistan in what was the knock-out match of all knock-out matches.

Friday night mind you, with excellent weather in the Adelaide area and the chance to nestle in for a full days’ cricket with New Zealand playing Ireland in the entrée fixture.

Like many, I was stunned at the poor turn-out.

Yet, should we be at all surprised by the reality that fewer Australians than ever are committed to attending matches in support of their national team?

Is it any shock, considering the going’s on across the last 10 years, that concerning Test attendances have raised eyebrows or that a general decline in domestic attendances at BBL matches is the current reality for the powers at be?

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Many have been turned off.

Players’ whipping sandpaper out of their whites was never going to pass quickly or Teflon-like, captain’s threatening to shatter the limbs of opponents did not sit comfortably with decent people and players requesting that men from foreign shores “Speak English” in the heat of battle bordered on a lesson in racism 101.

With the historical legend of the ‘Ugly Australians’ always lingering, the recent past has done little more than exacerbate the universal and international opinion that the Australian cricket team is and will always remain a collection of bullies.

Anyone not of the view that some Australians have become less drawn to the national team as a result are simply not thinking or naïve.

Perhaps the Adelaide crowd figure and the pervading questions around the commitment, integrity and resilience of the current T20 squad are nothing more than a parlaying of the growing disinterest and dislike of the national team, creating an unfortunate absence of the feelings they once evoked in us.

Steve Smith press conference 2018

(Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Glenn Maxwell’s absurd comments that followed the Australian’s final Super 12 match against Afghanistan were a far cry from the spirit of the team we once supported passionately; miles from the desperation and commitment displayed by men who broke bones, vomited in battle and gave more than any athlete should be expected to give.

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Listening to SEN radio in the aftermath, with Gerard Whateley taking a mountain of calls post the reality that the T20 trophy was to be passed on elsewhere, an underlying message emerged that there had developed a disconnect between Australian fans, the T20 format and the men wearing the green and gold.

That is something almost unthinkable to some, yet perhaps a reality born of a lingering disrespect for etiquette, the opposition and the game of cricket itself, one that the Australian cricket team has sadly participated in over an extended period of time.

Whilst some will disagree, the T20 World Cup crowd data and the rather cold and seemingly less-caring public response to Australia’s demise prior to the semi-finals, suggests that Australia is less in love with cricket than ever before.

Perhaps there is just too much cricket, maybe T20 is to be exposed for what it truly is, or the game is simply destined to take up a lower rung on the Australian sporting ladder of relevance.

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