What’s more important: the Shield Final or T20 World Cup?
Date: March 14, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
For Australian cricket fans there will shortly be a clash of events – one a time honoured staple on the domestic calendar, the other a brash new kid on the international block.
On the 21st of this month, at a venue yet to be determined, the Sheffield Shield final will get underway.
Two days later, Australia will play its opening match of the World T20 against Pakistan at Mirpur in Bangladesh.
By the time both events roll around the major domestic winter football codes – AFL and NRL – will be well and truly up and running and hogging the bulk of the sports news around the country.
It is likely that both cricket events will be given reasonably short shrift in the local media.
In the case of the Shield competition, it will simply be more of the same.
In recent times the media coverage, and dare I say public interest, in what is often described as the strongest domestic first-class competition in the world has been on the wane.
Cricket Australia’s scheduling in recent seasons has not aided the cause.
A few years back a decision was taken to move many of the Shield fixtures to mid-week with at times all four days of play falling outside Saturday or Sunday.
There are very few matches nowadays that are played over both days of the weekend.
The last six home-and-away matches of this season have all been played on weekdays.
The eight-week hiatus over the summer school holidays to accommodate the BBL has also meant that most avid fans are unable to access domestic first-class matches during their down time.
Almost two decades ago the ABC – the traditional media home of the Sheffield Shield for umpteen decades – chose to cease broadcasting regular ball-by-ball coverage of matches.
The move to the national Grandstand program during the summer months resulted in slabs of commentary being broadcast from the various grounds over the weekend.
Even that came to an end this summer with Cricket Australia demanding for the first time in its history a rights fee be paid to broadcast the competition.
The national broadcaster baulked at that impost and as a result not a single ball has been described on the ABC this summer although the final will be covered in its entirety on the ABC’s digital platform and through its website.
This Shield season has proved to be one of the tightest on record with three teams all going into the final round of home-and-away matches tied at the top of the table on 26 points.
Yet nowadays you would have to almost go out of your way to find the points table whereas it used to always be readily displayed in all the major newspapers.
If New South Wales qualifies for the final there is the chance of seeing Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon in action.
Although you would need to be in Canberra to do so as the SCG will be out of bounds as American Major League Baseball – LA Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks – will be staged at the ground over the weekend of the final.
No matter which teams do scrape into the domestic first-class showpiece they will be missing players with the 15-man national squad in Bangladesh for the World T20.
Australia will have its work cut out for it as its currently ranked number six in the world.
George Bailey and his men will be desperate to win the only major piece of silverware that has thus far eluded Australia’s grasp.
The tournament will be carried live on pay-TV although viewing times are not overly friendly.
Should Australia defy its world standing and win the tournament it will be interesting to see just how much media interest it generates back home.
There is no doubting that the event itself is primarily a money making exercise.
That was made obvious when the ICC decided to stage the inaugural World T20 Championship in South Africa in September 2007 – at the time a total of just 19 international matches had been played.
Twenty20 cricket by its very nature is all about razzamatazz.
It can be argued that a Sheffield Shield final is about substance and is the bedrock for the country’s Test team.
Both however have a place on the cricketing landscape.
And both will also have to make do with limited media exposure in the coming days.
So over to you Roarers, which of the two events will you take a greater interest in?
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 14 March 2014