The Ashes 2013/14 Countdown: Day 79 … Still waiting for a First Class fixture list

I wrote recently about what I consider to be Australia’s short preparation time for the upcoming Ashes series. As we sit here now, 79 days before the first ball will be bowled at the Gabba, we still have not seen from Cricket Australia the schedule for first class matches for the 2013/14 season.

How is this so? Surely the focus for Cricket Australia must be on preparation for the Ashes and surely the way to prepare for any test match series, let alone an Ashes series, is to have the players projected to play in said series playing first class cricket? You would not know it though given what we have been provided with so far from Cricket Australia. Between launching the Big Bash League, press releases about 5 day and day night first class games and spruiking the selection of Fawad Ahmed those in charge at Cricket Australia Towers have been silent on the season to come.

It has been postulated since the BBL launch that Cricket Australia will be looking to push through the Ryobi Cup fixtures before the BBL starts which would mean, one presupposes, that those fixtures will need to take place in October and November which precisely when the players in the test team should be tuning up for the Ashes series. There is a real risk that, not only will some of Australia’s key players be in India playing in a seven game series of one day internationals that means nothing, the remaining key players could be stuck playing Ryobi Cup cricket rather than first class cricket. Those propositions could hardly be considered to be good for preparing for a test match series.

Am I missing something here? Or is this just another example of the money lining the pockets of those at Cricket Australia Towers blinding them from their principal role which is to procure positive results? The fact that I can still buy tickets for the first test at the Gabba speaks volumes doesn’t it? In 2006 and 2009 the scramble to purchase tickets saw many a professional ignore his or her clients and staff on the day the tickets were released just to make sure they got tickets before they sold out and sell out the tickets did. The current blip in Australia’s form, born out of, in my view in large part, terrible preparation will continue to reduce crowd numbers. The question is though, will the crowd numbers reduce enough for Cricket Australia to take their eyes off the pot of gold at the end of the BBL rainbow and off gimmicks like day night first class games and back onto Cricket Australia’s core job of acting in the best interests of Australian cricket and, simply, winning?

One suspects that it will not, because if the pasting in India and then the 3-0 loss in England did not bring the importance of winning test matches and preparing to win said test matches to the forefront of the minds of those running the game in this country then nothing will.

With the projected preparation Australia is expected to have, can anyone see them challenging England? Just based on the preparation, which is where Australia should be gaining an advantage in a home series but don’t seem to be taking the opportunity to, I cannot see Australia’s challenge being anything more than a whimper.

If this is the ultimate outcome then blame must rest squarely at the feet of those in charge of the game. Will it then be time for the Sutherland era at the top to come to an end? One can only hope so!

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