Since the revamped Matador Cup competition which started in 2013, the six states have battled it out over the month of October in Sydney. The jam packed tournament has featured matches at suburban grounds like North Sydney Oval and Blacktown. In 2015, Cricket Australia XI was introduced with some criticism. The team is made up of young and upcoming Australian players giving them a chance to play against some of the best players in Australia.
Sadly, the Cricket Australia XI have been getting smashed. Firstly, they were bowled out for 59 against NSW and then bowled out by Victoria for just 74. It’s been tough going for these youngsters and these big loss are definitely hurting their confidence. So, instead of throwing them into the deep end why not use a different team that will be exciting and will benefit a lot more from the Matador Cup matches?
We’ve seen how competitive associate teams can be at World Cups when they are given the chance against the bigger nations but sadly they rarely get the opportunity to play a top teams due to tight yearly schedules. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Nepal and UAE are all nearby to Australia and are all exciting upcoming team. Papua New Guinea isn’t a much longer flight than Perth to Sydney! So why not include 1 of these teams each season instead of CA XI? Imagine the happiness and excitement these nations will get after seeing their Cricket team playing against the likes of Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner while being able to significantly improve their Cricket.
The players that play for Cricket Australia XI have plenty of opportunity to get experience at lower levels. Each state have reserve teams and competitions plus hundreds of local level teams all around the country. Top Papua New Guinea or Fiji players don’t have anywhere near the opportunity to play teams like Victoria and NSW but adding them the Matador Cup will give them valuable experience as they grow as Cricketers.
With the 2019 World Cup being restricted to just 10 teams, it’s getting extremely difficult for associates to play top teams. For the players in the Cricket Australia XI, they will get their opportunity to play for their state or even better, Australia eventually, but it’s hard to see Nepal or Fiji players getting the chance to play International Cricket. Think of all the children that will be inspired by seeing their Cricket players doing well and playing in top overseas competitions. The same way Steve Smith or David Warner inspire Australian kids now.
Cricket Australia and the state sides need to look at the bigger picture of world game. Sure, it may not seem like this move will financially help CA but you have to take into account how this will help in 10 years time. CA love international series against India and England because you can guarantee people will come and CA get a big pay check but you can’t continue to play the same teams otherwise fans will get disinterested and the Sport will not grow. Helping the smaller nations and giving them a chance to play in the Matador Cup will be exciting to watch, surprisingly competitive and little risk overall success of the yearly competition.