Australian Culture / Culture / Television

Cricket: Australia’s favourite sport. But is it art?

4th_Test_Woodfull

The National Australian Cricket Team in 1932 Source: Wikimedia Commons

Over the years, cricket has become one of Australia’s most popular sports and is definitely a part of Australia’s national identity. This is remarkable when you consider that a game of test cricket takes five days to play and more than often than not there is no result! And what would happen if one turned it onto a TV series or feature length film!

Each country has something very important in their culture that defines it, and can be qualified as part of their national identity. For France, we will think about food, The United States, it is Hollywood. For Australia, it’s sports. “The English passion for the amusements which are technically called ‘sports’ is not a national necessity with the Americans, whereas with the Australians it is almost as much so as home.[1]

Cricket was brought to the Australians by the British around 1800. This is therefore a game that has been played over 200 years in Australia, which makes it one of the earliest sports played there.

Cricket as Part of Australia’s National Identity

The introduction of the 2003/2004 National Cricket Census led by Street Ryand and Associates says that “cricket is entrenched in the Australian culture and is the nation’s main summer sport, in terms of participants, spectators, media coverage and its contribution to the economy[2]”.

Because of its climate and its coastline Australia allows the practice of a lot of summer and water sports such as swimming, and surfing. For a long time, swimming was considered the country’s national sport. In their 1997 article about sport in Australia, Adair and Vamplew even write that “according to a nationwide survey, cricket has engaged the hearts of 59% of the population surpassing swimming at 57%.[3]

In addition, the position of the cricket captain is even regarded as one of the most important roles in Australian sport, and Australia itself. Indeed Geoff Lawson, ex Australian cricketer, journalist for The Guardian wrote that “it is said that the Australia cricket captain is the second most important person in the country after the Prime Minister”.

Therefore, cricket is often considered as the Australian national sport mostly because of its popularity in terms of participants and spectators, but also because it is popular in each state of the country[4]. Therefore, if cricket is considered as a national sport, it is part of Australia national identity: it unifies the nation.

Cricket: The Bonding of Mates

In the movie Save Your Legs!, Ted’s life, the main character, revolves around one thing: cricket. He is president of a team called the Abbotsford Anglers, in Melbourne, and his first speech is “Cricket is more than just a game. It’s the roar of the crowd and the crack of leather on willow. It’s skill and grace and drama in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of fierce competition, and it’s all right here with the mighty Abbotsford Anglers Cricket Club”.

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The Abbotsford Anglers in India. Credits: Karl Quinn

For Ted, cricket is much more than a game because it is a way to spend time with his mates, to bond. Also, thanks to cricket he is able to fulfill his childhood dream, being a part of an Australian cricket team. And when Ted is afraid to lose his friends, he decide to sign them up for cricket tour in India, in order to make them realize that cricket is more important than wives, or family, “But a tour is also a unique opportunity for mates to come together, far from the distraction of home, to bond as a team and focus on what’s important.”

Therefore, cricket is considered as a mean of bonding, as Boyd Hicklin, the director of the movie, said in an interview to Karl Quinn in the Sydney Morning Herald:  “’What other sport can stop and allow the two lead characters to chat about their relationships on the pitch?’”

Everybody Loves Cricket

However, even if in Save Your Legs!, women, and family seem to be excluded from the cricket world, this is not the case at all in reality. According, to the 2003/2004 National Cricket Census there were 47 780 women who participated in an Australian cricket program or competition. Even if that represents only 10% of all participants, this shows that women enjoy cricket too.

The Australian TV series A Moody Christmas depicts a much different side of cricket. Indeed, every year the Moodys reunite for Christmas and we can see them playing cricket in three different episodes (the season has only six). It seems to be a tradition for them, a way to bring the family together. Indeed, they are very different from each other, they all have different lifestyles, jobs, ages, and so forth, but with cricket they forget all of that and just enjoy a nice family time. Everyone in the family plays: men, women, the young ones, the old ones.  In fact, in episode 2 even the grandmother is playing.

Cricket: Australia’s Revenge

Australia won the Cricket World Cup four times out of ten, and played six finals, whereas England, the cricket’s birth country, actually never won a world championship and was beaten by Australia in a final in 1987. The Australian national cricket team is considered to be the most successful team in the world, even though India is the current world champion[5].

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Australian national cricket team – Source Jon Hrusa/AP

In a way, through sports and mostly cricket, Australians feel like they get revenge on the British, since they are a former colony of the British Empire. “Cricket plays an important role in Australia national identity, in particular its relationship towards the UK. Ashes Tests, which are specific games organized between the Australian and the British, can be seen by many Australians as an opportunity to avenge past perceived wrongs by the former imperial power.[6]” Indeed, Australia is the current trophy holder of the Ashes, and the most successful team.

Cricket succeeds in unifying the Australian nation, whether it is through social bonding, participations, media coverage or just by the great feeling of beating the British national cricket team during the Ashes. Cricket a great pride for Australians, and also one of the many facets of Australian national identity.


 

List of Works Cited

–          Daryl, Adair, Wray, Vamplew, Sport in Australian history. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1997.

–           http://www.holidayhunter.com.au/sport/page5.html

–          Wilson, Andy, “Ashes captains Clarke and Cook reach century of Tests and pick up awards”, The Guardian, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/dec/13/ashes-captains-michael-clarke-alastair-cook

–          Lawson, Geoff, “Punter’s Chance”, The Guardian, 2005, http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2005/jul/17/ashes2005.ashes3

–          Mileti, Daniella, “Everybody out of the pool, cricket has bowled us over”, The Age, 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20121206145825/http://www.theage.com.au/news/cricket/everybody-out-of-the-pool-cricket-has-bowled-us-over/2007/05/09/1178390390322.html

–          http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Cricket-in-Australia#Cricket_in_Australian_culture

–          Quinn, Karl, “Boys’ Club makes last pitch for life”, 2012 http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/boys-club-makes-last-pitch-for-life-20120811-241i3.html

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