After a year of scandal, Cricket Australia seems to have turned the corner. However, after seeing an ad that emboldened women, I’m absolutely sure that they have not changed.
We’re midway through cricket’s great campaign to save it from itself. So far, it’s going well. Against the backdrop of familial summer heat seems to be approaching the realms of normalcy once more. The litmus test was Boxing Day Test, where those in power wondered if tradition overpowered Cricket Australia’s damaging of it. But they did, as they always have, to watch a team renewed from the pit of scandal, an earnest Potemkin collection of the hopeful, hopeless and the handsome.
They’re losing, sure, but they’re doing it in the right way.
I too, was fooled. Right until lunch on the first day. A raft of advertisements buffered the talking heads on the desk, and one caught my eye. Hashtagged ‘#watchme’ was a slick endorsement of the women’s game, an emotive tip toward the women who co-inhabit the cricketing world with the men.
Through the prism of Cricket Australia, women can be many things. The boss, the doctor, the Cricket Captain of Australia ™.
The presentation isn’t the problem. It’s the message. Primarily because it goes against the established tone from Cricket Australia. Back in August, it was reported that an employee was sacked for expressing a political sentiment. In discussion abortion, Angela Williamson lost her job, a career torched by being a woman, having to cross a sea to get an abortion, and wanting to change an obviously broken system.
Clearly, you can be anything you want, but not unexpectedly pregnant. Which makes the ad extremely hollow. Supporting women, but not the choices they make. Odd, considering the entirety of the advertisement is about choice. But, I guess, a choice that CA has already endorsed.
In focusing on the growing women’s game, and not the prevailing culture that walks the halls of CA, it falls flat, and it’s an insult to both. Propping up these women but ignoring others is systemic to the thinking that remains, and it makes you believe that they don’t actually care. Why embolden women when you reserve the right to sack them? Women in cricket are in the spotlight, and I don’t think it is accidental. Another example is the fuzzy good vibes that emanated from a tweet midweek, one that combined the two worlds of cricket, sledging and parenting, as India’s wicketkeeper, Rishabh Pant, jokingly babysat Tim Paine’s children.
Call me paranoid, but it has the pong of sanitised PR. Of good guys doing good, of the family coming first, of women in our game being important, and et cetera.
With the Angela Williamson drama firmly in Cricket Australia’s rearview (the case was settled out of court), they’re now free to manufacture the narrative. Of supporting women who play the sport, or the WAGs that supporting the men. Isn’t Tim Paine doing well for himself? It’s a good old family time, if you have kids, bring them down. It’s just like it used to be.
Which, I feel is the danger, and the clue. I feel the Williamson drama is a pothole dodged, not a different fork in the road taken.
As a result, this entirely new woke sensitive CA, the one that supports women, that one I don’t believe. It’s hard to accept a deliberate shifting of the attention as anything near objective fact.
What it hints at, is that they haven’t changed. All the apologies, all the programs, and all the new personnel is merely a merkin over CA’s dangling appendage. I fear nothing has changed, they’ve just learned how to navigate scandal. They’ve crossed the rough seas, and now it’s time to get on with the game. Obviously, not everyone is married to an athlete, or is an athlete themselves. However, we are all, have been, and will be Angela Williamson.
If CA wanted to get us back on board, maybe they should have started with us.