TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
MARCH 30, 2015 dawned bright and beautiful in Melbourne; too bright and terrifyingly beautiful for Australia’s World Cup squad.
The day/night before, in the final, Australia had put out the fire of the punk band that was Brendon McCullum and his New Zealanders. By seven wickets. With 101 deliveries to spare. In front of a crowd of 93 013.
The next morning most of the Australian players should have been snoring or trying to remember – or forget – what had happened in the preceding hours.
Instead they were at Federation Square in the city centre to parade their trophy to a horde of supporters.
The players, probably still pissed, or hungover, or a vicious cocktail of both, arrived looking like extras from a Matrix movie – dark glasses, fixed facial expressions, a sense that something terrible was about to happen.
It didn’t. Being Aussies, they got on with it.
The dark glasses were removed to reveal red gashes where eyes used to be.
Faces were squished into what their owners hoped were smiles.
The gleaming bauble was duly hoisted aloft.
Bits of tin foil filled the air.
Fans whooped and roared and clamoured for selfies.
Players, looking a little less rough around the edges, warmed to their task.
And that was about that.
Job done, the players bid farewell and no doubt crawled to the nearest pharmacy en route to bed.
The fans went back to what they had been doing before they detoured to Federation Square.
Their team had won. They were happy. Yay. Moving on …
Watching South Africans might have found the scene strange.
How come no-one called it the greatest day in the history of Australian cricket, nevermind sport?
Where was the embarrassment of a sports minister manically spewing giddy gobbledegook?
Why didn’t someone lump sport with patriotism and try to make the ludicrous argument that a game can turn disparate millions into a nation?
Perhaps because this was the fifth time Australia had won the World Cup, and the thrill had faded.
But it’s useful to wonder if it wasn’t because, well, it’s only one-day cricket, mate.
And that’s not nearly as important as Aussie rules, which drew more than 6.6-million spectators to stadiums last year.
The National Rugby League are next on the list with just more than 3-million, followed by the A-League with 1.8-million.
Only then does the Big bash League get a look in with 825 657 bums on seats in 2014-15.
That’s right: by some measures soccer is a bigger game in Australia than cricket.
But not cricket played in whites over five days by teams representing Australia and England.
Despite the vast growth in cricket as an industry in Asia in the past 20 years, the record attendance for a test series anywhere remains the 943 000 who turned up to watch the Ashes in 1936-37.
Test cricket didn’t have to fight off competition from its other formats in that era, which was also free of live television coverage.
In Australia the game’s modern ethos is in tune with its past although test series between the Aussies and AN Other aren’t as central to the soul as the Ashes.
But one-day cricket? It’s in there somewhere but it doesn’t matter too much.
Parallels with that theory could be drawn from the fact that Australia sent their captain, Steve Smith, home to take a mental break in the middle of a one-day series in Sri Lanka last month, while premier pacemen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have been rested for the one-dayers the Aussies are playing in South Africa.
South Africa’s squad is packed with Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Hashim Amla, the latter fresh from the birth of his third child, and a shudder went around the country when AB de Villiers was ruled out.
You could argue with some of the above but not with this: no-one has won the World Cup more times than Australia.
Perhaps because everyone else takes it more seriously.