England's white-ball captain Jos Buttler has weighed in on the contentious cricket scheduling debate after his side's one-day international (ODI) series against Australia ended in farcical scenes. The Aussies completed a 3-0 series whitewash against Buttler's side at the MCG in front of a record low crowd at the iconic ground on Tuesday.
The 10,406 fans that turned out at the MCG to watch the dead rubber clash represented the lowest crowd for an ODI at the MCG in cricket history. The scenes were described as "embarrassing" and "farcical" by viewers, with critics and players taking aim at a packed schedule that saw an ODI series come mere days after a T20 World Cup.
Nine days after beating Pakistan in that T20 World Cup final at the MCG, Buttler's England side suffered a 221-run spanking on Tuesday, that saw Australia complete the series rout. The home side racked up 5-355 before bundling England out for 142 in 31.4 overs, in front of the largely empty stands in Melbourne.
Buttler said he was unfazed by the result for the newly crowned T20 World Cup champions, and urged administrators to make sure bilateral cricket remains relevant, following uproar around the packed International schedule.
"It was always going to be a tough series for us, coming off the back of the World Cup," Buttler told the BBC after England's heaviest defeat in this format.
"Any time England play Australia you want to put up good performances, but it's just been hard. I'm not fussed at all about the results, to be honest. We've got exactly what we wanted from (the tour to) Australia."
The reality of the jam-packed cricketing schedule was evidenced by the fact several members of England's Test squad were already in Abu Dhabi preparing for their tour of Pakistan. Buttler said cricket officals and administrators had to be mindful about future scheduling and the effect it could have on players being involved in all three formats of the game.
"The landscape of cricket has changed dramatically over the last few years, and we're in a different time. Lots of people are talking about how you keep bilateral cricket relevant and I think this series is a good example of how probably not to do it," he added about the ODI series against Australia.
"I feel a bit for the players, to be honest - the ones who are young and coming into the game at the moment. You want to play all formats and I don't think the schedule really gives you that chance at the minute."
Record crowd low for final ODI at MCG
During Tuesday's poorly attended third and final ODI at the MCG, commentators noted that there couldn't have been more than 1000 fans in the stands as the match got underway just after 2pm on a school and work day.
While thousands more eventually showed up later in the match, it still made for some farcical scenes in the 100,000 capacity stadium. With Australia already holding an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, spectators stayed away from the largest stadium in the country for the third and final ODI.
The previous lowest attendance for an ODI at the MCG involving Australia came in 1979 during the World Series era when 12,077 turned up to watch the hosts play against England. The top level of the MCG was closed for the entire match on Tuesday in a sign of the predicted low crowd.
Travis Head, who scored 152 from 130 balls to bring up his third ODI ton and highest score in the format, said it was hard to miss all the empty seats in the 100,000-capacity stadium.
"I noticed it but when the ball is coming in at you, you don't really notice if there's 10,000 or 100,000 really," Head told reporters. "I guess we weren't surprised, with where the series was at ...Tuesday afternoon and weather hasn't been great so pretty tough conditions to come out and watch cricket."
The fact the match was played on a Tuesday in November - before the traditional 'start' of the cricket summer and Test matches - didn't help Cricket Australia's cause. Only three ODIs have previously been held at the MCG in November, with an average attendance for those matches just 17,993.
When ODIs at the MCG are played in December, January and February, the average crowd number rises above 40,000. Tuesday's farcical scenes marked a dramatic drop-off from the recent Twenty20 World Cup, with 80,462 people turning out to watch England win the final against Pakistan at the MCG just nine days ago.
India and Pakistan drew 90,293 fans when they played at the MCG in the group stage.
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