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Shame about the pet names

If Twenty20 cricket is the tool by which the quaintly imperial game plans to conquer the world, it is reassuring to know Australian visionaries are working hard to make sure it is sufficiently blunted.

If Twenty20 cricket is the tool by which the quaintly imperial game plans to conquer the world, it is reassuring to know Australian visionaries are working hard to make sure it is sufficiently blunted so as to not take out anyone's eye.

Yesterday's decision to identify the cream of Australian cricket by emblazoning nicknames on their playing shirts further hastens the dumbing down of the game to heighten its appeal among fans of reality TV and oi, oi, oi chants.

Monday's first 20-over international against South Africa was breathlessly promoted as "one of the most revolutionary steps domestic cricket has taken in Australia" since one-dayers began here in 1969.

And the hook upon which this landmark shift in Australian sporting culture has been slung is to get the crowd further involved by giving them a glimpse behind the dressing-room door to reveal the stars' pet names.

Given the second XI nature of Australia's Twenty20 team and the low profile domestic cricket has in this country, it would have been as much of a novelty to display their full names, dates of birth and career highlights.

In the absence of those details, fans intrigued by the brash new concept will be able to yell for, or at, Damien 'Marto' Martyn, Nathan 'Bracks' Bracken and Simon 'Kat' Katich (not to be confused with James 'Catfish' Hopes).

Just how the public airing of these in-house details will aid the appreciation of what is essentially a slogging rehearsal without the practice nets was not explained within the promotional guff.

To the contrary, trying to match the shirt names with the surnames on the scoreboard might convince patrons they are better off in the bar or jumping castle or other alternative entertainment usually held in concert with Twenty20 to camouflage the 'cricko'.

If 50-over cricket is considered fast food compared to the sustenance and nourishment offered by the Test match version, then the 20-over gimmick is undoubtedly the chicken nugget.

It is appropriate, therefore, that the Australian leg (aka 'drumstick') is sponsored by the world's largest purveyor of deep-fried poultry.

In deference, perhaps the historic match at the Woolloongabba 'Gabba' Ground could be launched by replacing the old-fashioned coin toss with an innovative mid-pitch snap of a wishbone under the jurisdiction of match referee Chris 'Home and A' Broad.

To date, the slog and tipple version has only taken root in the UK and South Africa.

It has no presence in the influential Asian nations which are increasingly flexing their financial muscle to drive the game's worldwide agenda.

The International Cricket Council is facing open revolt from India's powerful administrators who claim their team accounts for 80 per cent of revenue raised in the game and therefore should be given commensurate influence in scheduling and administration.

No wonder ICC chief executive Malcolm 'Breakneck' Speed and president Ehsan 'Money, Money' Mani are hoping to spread the game into virgin markets.

Consequently, the three-hour, non-stop action provided by Twenty20 matches is viewed by many an administrator as the ideal method of introducing the game to cultures with no historical cricket background.

How could emerging cricket nations, the likes of Italy, Namibia, Argentina and Canada, be anything other than entranced by the deeds of the first national sporting team since Brazil's soccer legends to sport a single identifiable name on their team shirt?

And at some time in the future, when stadia around the globe rock to the chant of 'Rimmo' (Queensland's Nathan Rimmington), 'Siddo' (Victoria's Peter Siddle) and 'Manou' (SA's Graham ... er, Manou), the nickname thing will be rightly credited with changing the world

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