Steve Waugh has weighed in on the debate around the state of the Australian cricket team amid a spate of embarrassing crowds in recent months. The Aussies kick off the Test summer on Wednesday, taking on the West Indies at Optus Stadium in Perth.
However officials are once again expecting a low attendance figure. The West Indies aren't exactly a crowd-puller, and there aren't many likely to be in the stands on a weekday morning in November.
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Earlier this month there were just 10,406 fans in attendance at the MCG for the third ODI between Australia and England. It marked the lowest crowd for an ODI at the MCG in history.
Australia's clash with Sri Lanka at the recent T20 World Cup also only drew about 22,000 fans - a stark contrast to the 90,000 who showed up for India's match against Pakistan. Some have suggested that the Australian public has turned their backs on the national side due to the way in which Justin Langer departed as coach.
But according to Waugh it's simply a case of too much meaningless cricket that fans don't have any interest in. "There's a lot of cricket, it's hard to follow as a spectator, it's very hard to keep up with it," Waugh said on SEN radio.
"The three one-dayers against England seemed pretty insignificant, really. I mean, what were they playing for? There wasn't big crowds, I think the public has almost overdosed on cricket."
Waugh also said the fact that Australia has separate teams for Tests, ODIs and T20s is confusing for fans. "You want the special series to be iconic, like the Ashes, and against India when they come out here," he said. "It's hard to follow the Australian side because every time they play they have a different team on the field. For the fans and spectators, it is hard to make a connection because you're not sure who is playing.
"I don't know if it's anyone's fault but you need that consistency in the Australian side. You want to know who's in the squad every game, you want to be following it closely and it's really hard to do that right now."
Michael Clarke says fans 'peed off' with Aussie team
Last week, fellow former captain Michael Clarke said the Aussies are trying too hard to be liked. "We're trying to work out what's going down," he told Yahoo Sport Australia during a break in his Big Sports Breakfast radio show in Sydney.
"I think there's a lot a lot of people still peed off with what happened with Sandpaper-gate. I think a lot of people are peed off with how Justin Langer lost his job and then there's been some stuff off the field with individual players as well.
"I think Cricket Australia need to be asking the fans what they expect and what they want from us as a cricket team. I think the key is to be respected, it's not necessarily to be liked. We care a lot about what people are saying about us. So many things are happening around this Australian team that are un-Australian."
Asked how he thought the team could win back disillusioned fans, Clarke replied: "I'd like to see us play some tough cricket. Keep trying to win every game we play and respect the opponent.
"If you're on top you crush teams and if you’re behind you fight to get back in front – that's the Aussie way. That's the one thing that players can control, the brand of cricket we play. And then I think there can be some work done behind the scenes from Cricket Australia to build that relationship between fans and players."
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