In the wake of the disastrous two-Test series against Sri Lanka, Cricket Australia will need to review its marketing campaign – maybe even its marketing director – if they are going to excite public interest in the Indian series which starts next month. And that will hopefully involve something a little more inspiring than the TV advertisement shown in Brisbane ahead of the first Test which featured Nathan Bracken (who was never going to play in either of the Sri Lankan matches) bowling at a coin on the wicket.
Australia might have notched up consecutive Test wins No.13 and No.14 against the Sri Lankans, but there was no widespread jubilation, no dancing in the streets, just the barely perceptible sound of cricket watchers around the country hitting the off button on their remotes.
The situation was no less grim at the ground itself, where barely 17,000 fans turned up over the five days. That was less than a third of the 60,000 who flocked to the V8 Supercar series in Tasmania from Friday to Sunday. Never mind that Tasmania had not hosted a Test match for two years. The second-day crowd at Bellerive on Saturday was about half the turn-out for the Gunn’s pulp mill protest on the same day.
These alarming figures come on the back of the equally lame turnout in Brisbane, where the aggregate Gabba crowd of 55,953 was down 66% on last year’s record of 164,727. Television ratings also revealed a 40.7% drop in viewers across the country from that first Test last summer against England. Such was the lack of viewer interest that, late on the first day’s play in Brisbane, Judge Judy and The Bold and the Beautiful out-rated Channel Nine’s coverage of Australia’s first innings.
Somehow, after the euphoria of the 2005 Ashes series in England, Test cricket seems to have lost its way.
Australia’s dominance has something to do with the yawn factor. And Sri Lanka, while boasting two or three genuinely world-class players, was never going to set pulses racing. No, the problems run deeper than that and they mainly centre around the archaic format of Test cricket.
In this age of instant gratification, the younger generation have attention spans better suited to 20-20 cricket or one-dayers, rather than five-day Tests. That’s a massive generalisation, of course, but by and large it holds true. Somehow, cricket authorities have to find a way to make the longer form of the game more appealing.
And that’s where the marketing gurus at Cricket Australia will be forced to earn their handsome salaries over the coming months, and years.