ORIGIN OF CRICKET IN AUSTRALIA

ORIGIN OF CRICKET IN AUSTRALIA
 
 
 
 
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Australia might be the smallest of the seven continents, not in the cricket map of the Earth on date. Cricket is being played extensively in Australia and played for over 200 years now. Today the game is played by over half a million men, women and children in Australia. The sheer popularity for the game has made Australia as the number one team in World cricket today.
 
 
When the game of cricket started in the 1600’s, it was mostly confined to the royals in Lords, Earl and the Dukes in England. The game started spreading its wings across the World slowly and steadily with gradual British colonization.  When Willem Jansz and Abel Tasman went around the World in the voyage of discovery in the 17th century, cricket had not anchored in the Australian coasts. In order to reach the roots of cricket in Australia, we need to talk about Captain Cook and his expedition. It was in the year 1766 when the Royal Society commissioned Captain Cook to lead an astronomical expedition to Pacific Ocean for the purpose of charting a transit of Venus led the first entry of Europeans to the east coast of Australia at a place called Point Hicks on the coast of Victoria in April,1770.

Soon after the colonization of Australia began and so was arrival of the game of cricket. It is unknown if there were any cricketers among the convicts and marine guards on the first fleet to Australia. The first definite reference to cricket is seen in the 1804 January edition of “The Sydney Gazette” which recorded that “the recent weather has been favorable to the cricketers”. Thus Captain Cook played a pivotal role in bringing cricket to the Australian continent.

By 1826, clubs like the Currency Cricket Club, the Military Cricket Club and the Australian Cricket Club were functioning. Hyde Park used to be the venue for cricket matches. Hobart cricket club was formed in 1832. The famous Melbourne Cricket Club was formed in Victoria in the year 1838. The Van Diemen’s Land (which later known as Tasmania) was formed during the same time. Gradually cricket spread to other colonies in Southern and Western Australia.  

The history of first inter-colonial cricket match in Australia is traced in 1851 when a team from Victoria went to Tasmania. The match was played in Launceston Racecourse on 11th and 12th February, 1851 which was won by Victoria by 3 wickets. Tasmania and Victoria played each other three times up to 1955. But the difficulties in crossing Bar Strait to Tasmania made the Victorians getting attracted to go and play the neighboring colony of New South Wales. This enabled New South Wales to make their debut in 1955-56 when they defeated Victoria by 3 wickets in the inaugural match in Melbourne Cricket Ground. The 1857-58 season will go as a major milestone in the cricketing history of Australia as it featured three major matches involving Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. Victoria won all their matches. The popularity o the game created cricket boards in various colonies. Cricket board was formed in New South Wales in 1857 followed by Victoria in 1864 and South Australia in 1871.

Cricket got a further boost in Australia when the first English team arrived in 1861-62. The tour was organized by a private firm named Spiers and Pond. The English team was captained by H.H.Stephenson and most consisted players from Surrey. The matches created lots of enthusiasm among the spectators and were commercially successful. The next English team to Australia was led by George Parr in 1863-64.

By this time, cricket was a popular sport in Australia with the emergence of competitive club levels. Australians started finding themselves competent to play England. This led to the first tour of an Aboriginal cricket team from Australia to England in 1868. The team was captained by Charles Lawrence, a member of Stephenson’s English team of 1861, who stayed back in Australia after the tour. The team which had outstanding cricketers like Johnny Mullagh, played 47 matches in England, winning 14, losing 14 and drawing 19 of their matches. The Australian team used to display their athletic skills like throwing boomerang and spears besides playing cricket. The team had problems acclimatizing with inclement weather in England and King Cole suffered from tuberculosis during the tour.

Cricket consolidated its position further in Australian soil by the sheer presence of the players of the caliber of  W.G.Grace who toured in an English team in 1873-74. The first recognized test match was played between the combined IX OF New South Wales and Victoria (forming an Australian team) with England from 15th to 19th March,1877. The match was played at the Melbourne Cricket ground which was won by Australia by 45 runs thanks to the unbeaten innings of 165 runs by Charles Bannerman. The charismatic presence of players like Billy Murdoch, Fred Spofforth and Jack Blackham during the tour added flavor to Australian cricket. The Australian cricketing muscles dared to tour England in 1878-79 and created a riot. Australia played the first test match against England at the latter’s soil at The Oval in 1880. The famous Australian victory over England in 1882 tour of England is known as the “satirical obituary”. It figured in the English news paper The Sporting Times expressing anguish over the result that the English cricket had died and the body would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. This led to the origin of “Ashes” as the English news papers described the next England tour to Australia in 1882-83 to regain the ashes taken away by Australia in 1882.

Slowly and steadily, the cricket fever has caught the imagination of Australian people. The defeats meted out to arch rivals England gave a real boost the Australian cricket. The first centralized authority for the administration of cricket in Australia was created in 1892. The representatives from State associations of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia joined hands to form the Australian Cricket Council. This development enabled the creation of the first domestic competition in the name of “Sheffield Shield” in the same year. The shield is named after Lord Sheffield who donated the funds for purchasing it who was also the financier of the English tour in 1891-92. The Australian Cricket Council was formed with the twin objectives of regulating intercolonial cricket and organizing international tours. But conflicting interest crept in organizing international tours as players were deprived to share the profits out of tours hitherto organized by private enterprises. Players like George Giffen resisted the process. And the Australian Cricket Council finally disbanded in 1898.

What we now know as Cricket Australia was established in 1905 as the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket. Formal discussions began in January 1905 in Sydney for the formation of a body to take over the control of tours from the players. A draft resolution was discussed and deliberated in details by the members of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The first meeting of the board was held at Wesley College in Melbourne on 6th May 1905. The founding members were New South Wales Cricket Association and Victoria Cricket Association. But South Australia delegates refused to join as its players were denied any representation in the board. Queensland Cricket Association was represented as an observer only.

With the continued protests from South Australia and Queensland associations, the constitution of the was amended in 1906 taking three permanent representatives each from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and Queensland having one representative in the board. Tasmania was permitted to send one permanent representative to the board in 1907. Representation to the board became wider in 1913 when Western Australia was also allowed to send one representative to the board. The structure of the board was again amended in 1914 and 1974 when the representations of Queensland and Western Australia were increased to two each. The Australian Board of Control for International Cricket changed its name to Australian Cricket Board in 1973 which again got changed to the present Cricket Australia in 2003.   
 
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