Dust off the Argus Report

TWO-AND-A-HALF years after the Argus Report suggested Australian cricket might like to start prioritising the Sheffield Shield over Twenty20s and the two-month break for the Big Bash League is followed by a Shield scorecard in which Victoria's top seven scored duck, duck, duck, duck, 1, 9 and duck.

If my keyboard had a duck symbol that sequence would resemble one of those fairground shooting galleries where even if you hit every metal bird swimming past you still only end up with a crap stuffed toy made in Thailand, or a dead goldfish.

Of course it will all be lost in the warm afterglow of Ashes, one-day and Twenty20 series victories over the Poms combined with a winning start to the South African tour, but just maybe Mr Argus had a point.

Written in the aftermath of home and away Ashes losses, the report's many commonsense suggestions included carefully assessing whether the Big Bash League could compromise Australia's Test aspirations.

Eighteen months later, when Australian cricket's most successful domestic coach Tim Coyle retired from his trophy- laden decade in charge of Tasmania, clearly nothing had changed.

Midway through a Test whitewash in India, Coyle told The Examiner: "Test cricket is supposed to be the most important thing, but we compromise our Sheffield Shield competition by having our summer broken up with eight weeks of Twenty20 cricket slap bang in the middle of it.

"Players are not playing red- ball cricket for up to 80-odd days between Shield matches. I think that's asking for trouble."

A year later and it's been a week as bizarre as Jack Riewoldt announcing a self-imposed media ban - during one of his regular media commitments.

First there's the strange tale of Shaun Marsh. A couple of days after being sent home injured from South Africa he manages to hit 63 not out to help Perth win the BBL final which earns a Test recall back to Johannesburg in time to make 148 in the match he had previously been declared unfit for.

However, not even Marsh could top that Victorian scorecard, which, by an amazing coincidence, featured a glut of BBL headliners.

Scott Boland produced the most impressive of those ducks. While Matt Wade, Marcus Stoinis, Peter Handscomb and Aaron Finch made their non-tallies off two, five, six and eight balls respectively, the resilient Boland managed to soak up 38 deliveries before adding his.

At one stage, Glenn Maxwell had faced the same number of balls as six of his team-mates combined, scoring 90 not out compared to 1 (for six wickets).

Yesterday, in response to the Aussies becoming the first team to back up six straight Test losses with as many wins, Cricket Australia published a self- congratulatory graphic titled "Australia's golden summer".

It quantified its success in crowd numbers, viewing figures, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, CA app downloads, "digital destination followers" and urns returned.

In a strange oversight, it failed to mention next-to-nobody watching the appallingly devalued Sydney-based domestic one-day cup, just 12,506 turning out at a funereal MCG for a BBL semi-final and a Bushrangers' scorecard of 6-9 which represented the worst ever start to a Shield match.

All the time Mitchell Johnson's wickets and Steve Smith's runs are rescuing the Australian Test team, nobody will complain about any of this.

As soon as they dry up, another perusal of the Argus Report could be in order.


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