Cricket, crisis and creative destruction
Like US imperialism, Australia’s cricket empire is in decline.
Some of its truly great players have retired - Warne, Hayden, McGrath, Gilchrist. Age destroyed them, much as it destroys well established and respected companies or even systems.
But this is not just a boom bust slump where new Warnes eventually come on to the scene. For example the search for a new Australian spin meister has failed. The latest, Bryce McGain, is 36 years old. He may be OK for a year or two. This is, like Rudd’s leadership of the country and the Labor Party, a stop gap measure. But Australian cricket has no Julia Gillard of spin (or leadership for that matter) ready to step up.
Just as the present economic crisis is not due to the usual business cycle but represents something much deeper, so too the decline of Australian cricket. The very basis of Australian cricket is under threat from internal and external forces.
Like the Howard Government, for many years Australian cricket has failed to invest in its future – in the infrastructure and personnel to ensure a steady stream of new Warnes and Waughs. The cricket future holds nothing but Rudd-like emergency stimulus packages to hold the line rather than to grow the game.
As a generalisation there just are no new players of the same calibre as the previous generation coming through. (20 year old new selection Phil Hughes might be the exception that proves the rule.) The old ways of developing new players have failed, just as no new companies are coming on the scene to replace or reinvigorate the likes of ABC Learning or Lehmann Brothers. The process of creative destruction has failed.
Weakness is everywhere, as the very foundations of the economy, and similarly cricket in Australia, collapse.
At least with cricket the focus has shifted to other countries, while for the economy the crisis is global. Even when Australia dominated the test and ODI rankings, cricket’s economic power shifted to India. A developing country, India has been growing rapidly as it integrates into the the world economy adopting neo-liberalism as its guiding philosophy. (The global economic crisis is seeing its growth slow.)
Its expanding wealth means it is now able to support contests such as the twenty20 IPL series, a series built on the labour of highly paid cricketers from around the world. The game is globalised in the sense that the cricket labourers can ply their trade in India for vast personal wealth. The audience is spread across certain parts of the globe too.
And yet globalisation is also cricket’s enemy. West Indies cricket is in perhaps a terminal state. Many West Indies kids now aspire to be basketballers rather than cricketers. The influence of the nearby US and the rewards a successful basketballer can make plus the impact of US television appear too great for Windies cricket to survive.
Cricket spread on the back of British colonialism. In settler states like Australia and South Africa it became the sport of the rulers, and in Australia at least a sizable section of the working class.
In other countries like India and the West Indies group, it was both the game of the oppressor and the oppressed.
Like capitalism, the very success of cricket contains the seeds of its own destrcution. The integration of cricket into the global economy has destroyed or is destroying that link between cricket and those supporters from the oppressed or exploited. It is no longer a game of workers and fighters against injustice.
First it is a game run by and for our economic masters. And even those working class or oppressed who make it big in cricket become divorced from their roots. They are lost to their class.
Not only that, but the rewards they can now receive tempt some players (like CEOs and even companies) to stay in the game for too long. They become a fetter on new players coming through. Just ask Mike Hussey or Phil Jaques. The reward system becomes a brake on creative destruction, or if you like a version of bank bailouts. It stops the supposed Shumpterian cleaning out of the old and the reinvigorating of the system with the new. The game or the system becomes sclerotic.
Having adopted the logic of ever expanding growth, cricket will met its wall. On the global stage it is a minnow and cannot compete with football for example. It is having trouble retaining popularity in its own niche markets, let alone expanding. Its slow decline is inevitable.
part of this may eb ebcuase the younger gernation (just like the baby boomers in their twenties) want instatnt rewards. test cricket and One Dayers do not supply that. Twenty20 on the other hand might be a temporary saviour. But why have Twenty20 when you can have baseball?
As the recession deepens, even the crowds at international Twenty20 games in Australia will fall away. Expensive tickets, food and drinks do not a recession buster make.
Let’s bury the ashes of Australia’s crap cricket.