A record low crowd could be the turning point for the Prime Minister's XI fixture to "establish its identity and purpose" with Cricket ACT chief executive James Allsopp intent on rebuilding the hype around the annual clash.
Allsopp has reaffirmed his commitment to the Prime Minister's XI concept amidst fears a crowd of just 1824 watching the hosts take on international powerhouse South Africa would leave its future on shaky ground.
Cricket ACT won’t hit the panic button after a record low crowd.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos
The luxury of a saturated summer of cricket inevitably left some fans prioritising bigger events but Allsopp is determined to work with Cricket Australia to build on the Prime Minister's XI's 67 years of history.
The Prime Minister's XI was the second cab off the rank in a jam-packed summer of cricket at Manuka Oval opened by a women's international, and soon featuring the Big Bash League, WBBL, WNCL, Sheffield Shield and a Test match.
"Canberra’s spoilt for choice with cricket at the moment, that’s the bottom line," Allsopp said.
"Obviously when you’ve got a plethora of cricket to come, Canberra people are going to make choices about which games they’re going to attend, and obviously Prime Minister’s XI is a lower priority.
"We’ve got a lot of pride in the game and it means a lot to the community and to us as an organisation. We’re looking to certainly build that game back up with Cricket Australia, and establish its identity and purpose in the calendar to make sure it can support all the other games going on and still get a decent attendance.
"It was a great game of cricket and the PM’s guys played exceptionally well. We just want to make sure we can give it the status it deserves given the history and the political nature of the game."
The Prime Minister's XI's place on the calendar will inevitably change each year as it is dictated by the schedule of the touring nations, but Allsopp says he would prefer midweek games to be played as Twenty20s, while a 50-over match would be fitting for a Friday or a weekend.
The match has transitioned from a playoff for spots in the national squad into a development pathway for the next generation, robbing the fixture of some marquee value.
Cricket ACT chief executive James Allsopp.Credit:Jamila Toderas
Cricket Australia and the ACT government have kicked off negotiations to sign a new agreement to bring international matches to Canberra with the latter locking their eyes on a long-term deal.
The government opted out of bidding for men's 2020 World Twenty20 games – instead securing five women's clashes – as it prioritised funding for future Tests, one-day internationals and BBL matches.
The ICC Future Tours programme has Australia's men's side scheduled to host Sri Lanka in three Twenty20s, Pakistan in two Tests and three Twenty20s, and New Zealand in three Tests and three one-day games next season.
Allsopp isn't pushing the panic button following a lacklustre crowd at the Prime Minister's XI clash, adamant fans will prove they want elite cricket in the capital when they flock to February's Test to cap off a summer boasting two Sydney Thunder match days.
"We’ve seen the touring teams for next year and I know Cricket Australia are working very closely with the ACT government to try to secure some more fixtures for Canberra," Allsopp said.
"I’m pretty confident we’re going to see a lot more international cricket in Canberra which is fantastic. We also want to make sure the Prime Minister’s XI is well recognised as well because of the history and the political nature of that game.
"What we need from the community is to make sure we keep supporting cricket in Canberra, whether it’s the PM’s game or a women’s game, a Twenty20 or a Test match.
"As long as people keep putting bums on seats, then Cricket Australia are going to have an inclination to keep sending cricket to Canberra.
"I’m really confident with the Test match and Big Bash games, people will speak with their attendance numbers."
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