Former Australia coach Mickey Arthur hopes the Australia ball-tampering scandal will prove a “reality check for world cricket” and that the banned trio of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft get a chance to play county cricket in England.
Smith and Warner, the deposed captain and vice-captain, have been given one-year bans by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft has been hit with a nine-month suspension for his part in the ball-tampering scandal that marred the team’s recent tour of South Africa.
Top-order batsman Bancroft was all set to be Somerset’s overseas player this season but the county backed out of that deal after it emerged he had used sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in Cape Town.
The CA ban applies only to Australia international matches and domestic fixtures, leaving open the possibility that the shamed trio could resume their careers elsewhere before their respective suspensions expires.
Now the coach of Pakistan, who begin their tour of England against Kent later this week, Arthur told reporters at the south-east county’s Canterbury headquarters on Wednesday that he had been stunned by the extraordinary scandal.
“It was a shock to me. I was disappointed, really disappointed, when I saw it go down,” he said.
Arthur, who coached Australia from 2011-2013, added: “Australia always play their cricket really hard, they play it tough. They’ve pushed ‘the line’ – I just want to know where ‘the line’ is because I’m not sure many people do know where that line is and what it is.
“But I think it got to a point where perhaps, hopefully this is a reality check for world cricket and just makes everybody sit back and take stock.
“Hopefully, something good comes out if it.”
Arthur was sympathetic to the idea of the banned trio playing county cricket.
“In a way, I feel really sorry for them. I can understand they were really stupid, they’ve paid a massive price for it and I know Steve Smith, he would be absolutely gutted.
“Cameron Bancroft is a new guy on the block so for him it would be really hard to swallow and Davey (Warner).
“For them to be missing the amount of cricket they are missing is tough on them so if the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) allowed it, it would be good for them to keep playing because I think they have paid a big price already.”
Arthur’s focus, however, is firmly fixed on Pakistan.
They face Kent in a four-day warm-up match starting Saturday ahead of an inaugural Test in Ireland and a two-Test series in England.
Pakistan impressed during a 2-2 drawn series in England two years ago and last year Arthur’s men won the Champions Trophy one-day tournament in Britain.
But since that 2016 series, Pakistan have seen the likes of veteran batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan retire.
Pakistan Team practice session at St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury pic.twitter.com/8PdWzrjw5F
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) April 25, 2018
England may have suffered a 4-0 Ashes reverse in Australia and a subsequent Test series loss in New Zealand, but Arthur was in no doubt about how tough it would be to face Joe Root’s men in early-season English conditions.
“England are a really good side and in these conditions they are outstanding,” he said.
“There are not that many sides that win away from home these days, so that’s how we are challenging ourselves.
“England in the Ashes, I watched a lot of that, weren’t too bad.
“They had opportunities in a lot of the Test matches which they just didn’t close off.”
Arthur, who made his name coaching his native South Africa, added: “We are under no illusions. It will be a very tough series.
“But we’ve got a dressing room full of young cricketers who are extremely talented.”
Pakistan are set to be bolstered by the late arrival of Mohammad Amir after visa problems delayed the star paceman’s entry into Britain until Wednesday.
Provided by AFP Sport
In a month to forget for Cricket Australia, CEO James Sutherland has somehow pulled a rather large rabbit out of his hat – announcing on Friday a new broadcasting deal for cricket in the nation worth AUD$1.2billion (US$931.7million) over six years.
Of course that is not a huge amount compared to the BCCI’s deal for IPL of Rs16,000 crore (US$2.5billion) over five years but for CA it is quite a windfall, especially since the game has been branded a national disgrace by the PM since the ball-tampering scandal.
It shows whatever stain Messrs Smith, Bancroft and Warner have left on the sport – the lifeblood of Australia’s national summer game is still pumping strongly.
But what is just as interesting as the figures is the deal itself – starting with who it has been signed with.
It’s lucky for those working at Channel 9 that Mr Packer is not with us any longer or heads would be rolling this morning.
Similarly Channel 10, who did a fantastic job turning the Big Bash League into Australia’s most popular cricket tournament, have also been axed – in a very unkind fashion.
In their place come Fox Sports and the Seven Network.
Fox are the big winners as they now have the rights to telecast every home cricket match Australia plays from the start of October 2018.
They have shown men’s overseas matches for the past 20 years – but now they can finally broadcast home games as well.
But for CA this is not just about money – though of course that helps. The move is also about being seen to be more inclusive and doing more to win over a new generation of fans – even more important in the wake of the events in Durban and Cape Town.
But Fox Sports have to keep up their end of the bargain.
Yes they get the blue ribbon events, like the Test series with India next summer – but they will also have to broadcast events with a smaller level of interest – women’s international for instance, which will be simulcast on Fox Sports and on free-to-air on the Seven Network.
In a similar vein both Fox and Seven will simulcast 23 Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) matches while, in what CA called a “boon for state cricket” domestic List A and first-class matches will return to television screens, with 13 domestic One-Day Cup matches and the Sheffield Shield Final to be broadcast on Fox Sports.
Fox Sports will also televise the annual Prime Minister’s XI and Governor-General’s XI matches.
These matches will not rate highly, and of course production costs will be high, but to get the cherry on top – Fox Sports also needs to bake the pie.
One of those cherries is men’s ODIs and Twenty20 in Australia but the real win for Fox Sports however is the BBL, the most successful new sporting tournament in Australia in the last 20 years.
Fox have the right to televise the entirety of the BBL – 16 matches exclusively.
#Cricket Australia press conference becoming a trainwreck over ODIs being only shown on Foxtel. No clarity on how this doesn't breach the anti-syphoning laws.— Andrew Hogan (@HoganNerd) April 13, 2018
To fit in all this new content Fox will launch their new channel Fox Cricket, along the lines of Fox League (NRL) and Fox Footy (AFL).
There will be a new Super Saturday format as well as a host of talk-shows.
All of this has grabbed the headlines – of course – but the really interesting developments are in the details.
To quote the CA release: “Fox Sports has also secured the digital rights to all cricket in partnership with Cricket Australia’s digital arm, Cricket Network, giving fans the chance to stream live matches on any device.”
The reality is that cricket had fallen behind League, AFL, the Premier League and US sports in offering more versatility in how to watch games.
They were in danger of losing younger fans who choose to experience their sport in a more flexible and mobile format, rather than sitting back on the sofa listening to the dulcet tones of Bill Lawry. (81-year-old Lawry was a Channel 9 stalwart and very hard to see either Fox Sports or Channel 7 picking up his contract.)
Plutocrats win and grassroot cricket supporters lose - Cricket Australia snubs the law and flogs off Twenty20 & One Day cricket to pay tv.— Wayne Swan (@SwannyQLD) April 13, 2018
The public face of the game will also change with Nine’s Mark Nicholas and Mark “Tubby” Taylor set to be replaced by younger and more “inclusive” faces.
Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany has promised “a revolution of energy, quality and commentary” – more than welcome to those who have endured the same tired voices at Nine for almost half a century.
Australia is a very different nation to what is was in the 70s but with the exclusively white, male commentary team you could be excused for thinking you were stuck in a time warp.
What this means for cricket globally is that the game is in surprisingly good health.
Rather than turn people off – the drama and scandal of the recent South African series seems to have re-ignited interest.
CA have entrusted Fox and Seven to re-kindle that interest. The players as well must play their part.