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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Attempt to bring football and cricket closer fails

Today the Redbacks beat the Blues in a 20/20 domestic match played at Newcastle. The Blues team included Andrew Johns , who is much better known (at least in NSW) as a rugby league player. Johns bowled one over for 9 runs (some of which was shown on the Channel 9 news tonight) and batted number 11, where he faced one ball and did not score a run. NSW captain Simon Katich shielded him from the strike in the tight last over, effectively conceding the game.


Johns apparently played Newcastle district cricket with some success before he took up rugby.
Not so long ago it was possible to play both cricket and a football code (AFL, rugby union or league and , more in the UK, soccer) at the highest levels. Both Denis Compton and Keith Miller after whom the Compton- Miller medal (awarded to the player of the Ashes series) was named, did so (Compton soccer, Miller Aussie Rules) .

Now this is simply not possible, as even below top club level the extension of the football season and its pre-season training requirements effectively require young players to choose one sport over another. Yesterday's Australian had an interesting article about this, and quite properly made the point that there are more opportunities for players to break into AFL teams while they are still relatively young. Cricket may have more opportunities for international travel but the road into the Australian test and one day teams is harder because once a player is established they reasonably expect to remain at top level until they are in their mid 30s and thus block others from taking over from them.

Adam Gilchrist's career in test cricket is likely last less than 10 years: less than that of each of the recent retirees Messrs Warne, McGrath and Langer. Australian cricket has worked out a succession plan for eminent players like them, but increased fitness levels, not to mention remuneration, have both allowed and encouraged players to stay on. True there are some who don't last the notional distance (eg Jason Gillespie, who nevertheless remains a force in domestic cricket).

What about the young players like Tony Notte, who is mentioned in the Australian article? According to his school sports master he's a promising leg spinner, yet he's chosen an AFL career path, which is likely to confine his future cricket to the backyard or the beach. Is there any chance of cricket reclaiming him at the end of his AFL career, say after he turns 30? Or are there few transferable skills between football and cricket? This wasn't so in Compton and Miller's day. But then most cricketers and footballers weren't paid much then.
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