My new best friend Glenn McGrath predicted that the recent Ashes cricket series would end in a 5-0 win for Australia.
Now while he would admit he said that slightly tongue in cheek, the ex-fast bowler nicknamed ‘Pigeon’ genuinely felt his former teammates would come good against England.
I didn’t get the chance to call him up on his erroneous predictions (it would’ve been rude, and he his much bigger than I am, as you can see) but the man who took 563 Test wickets would’ve been shocked to see the current Australian attack thrashed to all parts of the Sydney Cricket Ground, while their batsmen fared little better.
As the tourists completed a 3-1 Ashes series win the post mortems were already being carried out in the Australian media.
So what do they need to do? Well as I watched the fifth Test at the SCG there were signs of a more positive future for the Aussies.
It came in the shape of Usman Khawaja. The 24-year-old batsman from Sydney made his debut in the game and while he only made 37 and 21, he showed he had the ability to make it at international level.
Khawaja is the first Muslim to wear the baggy green, and the local media were quick to call it a breakthrough.
“If it’s to be a breakthrough, so be it. It’s always good to see a few new faces. More cultures will mean more people are playing and more people are going further with the sport,” the left-hander said.
The fact of the matter is that while over eight per cent of Australia’s population is of Asian descent (predominantly Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Indian) none have represented the country at cricket…until now.
To their credit the authorities in Australia are actively trying attract more players from ethnic minorities.
Sydney’s annual Cricket Masala tournament celebrates the many cultures that play the game Down Under.
Khawaja has already captained a team in the event, and Cricket Australia will hope they can continue to tap the rich talent that exists within the Asian communities.
Hope for the future
But at the end of the day the most important factor is youth and encouraging youngsters to play the game no matter what their background.
In that regard the Australians are still world leaders. During the Sydney Test a ticket for a junior cost as little as $26 and, despite the huge demand, the large capacity at the SCG meant tickets were still available at that price allowing large numbers of youngsters to watch their heroes.
Compare that to Lord’s in England (half the capacity of the SCG) where tickets for this year’s series against Sri Lanka and India have pretty much sold out, meaning fans young and old will have to pay over the odds (up to $137 according to one ticket agency) to have a chance of watching Strauss and co.
The good news for Australia is that children and their families can still afford to watch the game, which means that the Aussies are giving themselves every chance of attracting the Warnes and McGraths of the future, who are certainly conspicuous by their absence at the moment.