We, Australians that is, loved the Windies. Despite the thrashing they would serve us 8 out of 10 games, we loved them because they were carefree, exotic and very, very cool. Growing up in the World Series Cricket era we were fortunate to see them almost every year. Kerry Packer knew who rated and it was the West Indies. They were arrogant, humble, had players with unique names and were the best cricketers in the world.
But in recent times something has changed. Cricket just doesn't seem relevant anymore. I sit and watch the current test against South Africa and I just can't find the enthusiasm I once had. A lot of it has to do with the generation gap.Back in the 70's and 80's the players were men, and I was a boy. Now in my mind the situation has reversed and I don't see the players as men anymore. Is that just me or does that come with aging?? Looking back at the players of the World Series Cricket era, they were real blokes, knockabout blokes with big moustaches like Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Ian Chappell. They drank and smoked, sweated and swore. They got into confrontations on the pitch with Viv Richards, Joel Garner and Andy Roberts, and on reflection, has there ever been a more manly man than Viv Richards??
For me the end of my love for the game started unraveling during the Steve Waugh era. After watching Australia for the most part, get spanked for the majority of the 80's the domination we all desired turned out to be rather dull after a while. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, watching Australia decimate every opponent, totally humiliating them time and again. Although I don't blame Steve Waugh's unrelenting captaincy for my waning interest in the gentleman's game. The fun was beginning to disappear from the game well before Australia's dominance commenced. A power shift in the game saw the Sub-Continent countries starting to wrestle control from England and Australia. The Windies were on the decline for varying domestic reasons, and the popularity of the game was increasing in India, where it had always been the major sport, and Sri Lanka, due mainly to the Sri Lankans cavalier win in the 1996 World Cup.
The days of players speaking their minds was coming to an end. Australia became so good at sledging that suddenly they were perceived as bullies and were being censured for it. 'What happens on the field stays on the field' was now a thing of the past, and allegations of racism were becoming more prevalent. On the home front a day at the cricket had suddenly lost its charm. Expensive tickets and tight fisted security ruined everything. When spending a day sitting in the sun watching a game that can, lets face it, be boring at times you need to find ways to keep entertained, and everything that was fun was cracked down upon.
Then the powerbrokers of the game started changing the rules to allow bowlers from certain countries to stay in the game when they clearly were not bowling. At this point in my opinion the game had lost all credibility. Add to this the filthy stench of match fixing, which is still going on today more than 10 years after Hansie Cronje and Mohammed Azzuradin were thrown out of the game and you have more than enough reasons to walk away and find another way to spend the Summer. Now whenever there is an upset result the allegation of match fixing invariably comes up straight away, and there is a very good chance it has been fixed.
So these days it is just another sport to me, no longer holding the importance it once had. The players are no longer heroes, they are professional paid athletes, and well paid at that. We never knew how much Lillee, Chappell and co were paid. Now we read the paper and see the players talking about 'Intellectual Property' and being paid appearance fees on top of their fat Cricket Australia contracts and I just can't relate to them anymore. Now they are forgoing playing test cricket to pick up hundreds of thousands of dollars to play 20 over cricket in India. Good luck to them if they can earn huge coin, it just no longer entertains me.
So to highlight where I believe cricket is in Australia these days compared to where it was. The captain of the Australian Cricket team, a position once revered as second only to the Prime Minister in importance, is discussed more in Womens Magazines and gossip columns than he is in the Sports pages. Could you imagine that happening with Ian or Greg Chappell???