Greg Baum: Red ball, white ball, pink ball - it's like swapping SIM cards
OPINION: So, young upcoming Australian cricketer, here's what we envisage for you this season:
You'll start by playing white-ball cricket in South Africa with some but not all of Australia's best white-ball one-day team. The others will be resting in Australia.
You'll probably get well-beaten, but that can't be helped. It'll mean you miss out on a round of pink-ball Sheffield Shield matches, but that doesn't matter, because the first two rubbers against South Africa are red-ball tests. So, remember to change your white-ball mindset for your red-ball mindset, but not your pink-ball mindset. It's like swapping SIM cards. Click.
If you need a bit of a hit or a bowl after those, you can play a red-ball Sheffield Shield match for your state, just before the pink-ball test in Adelaide. Incidentally, it's not the same pink ball as last year's pink ball.
After that, it gets a bit confusing.
Ideally, you would then go off and play another pink-ball shield match. But actually, there are these three white-ball one-dayers against New Zealand. They are non-sequiturs, out of place and time, the steak knives we had to throw in to get the Kiwis to play in last year's inaugural pink-ball test. We'd love for you to sit them out, but the marketing people would kill us. You see, it's OK to field a sub-strength white-ball team when we're overseas, out of sight and mind, but not at home.
If you're still with us, then you'll throw the switch again – can't be so hard – and get three tests against Pakistan in quick succession, pink-ball, red-ball, red-ball, bang, bang, bang, as long as you don't get dropped, in which case you'll play white-ball T20 cricket for your BBL franchise, and as long as the scientists are happy you haven't bowled too many balls altogether, in which case you'll have to make do with no balls.
January's straightforward. Either you'll play white-ball 50-over cricket for Australia, the real Australia, against Pakistan, or white-ball 20-over cricket in the BBL, or a bit of both, toggling from mode to mode, with not a red ball or a pink ball in sight, except for those that will probably be dancing before your eyes by then.
Now comes the tricky part. First, there are these white-ball one-day matches in New Zealand (beats me why we're suddenly playing New Zealand every other week; I thought we'd deleted those pictures), then three white-ball T20 matches here against Sri Lanka. In between, if you need a hit, there's a round of red-ball shield matches, but not the same red ball as before, when sometimes it was a pink ball. These ones are English. You follow?
The thing is, in those Sri Lanka matches (white-ball, T20, in case you've forgotten), you won't really be playing for Australia. Don't expect to see Davey Warner out there with you, for instance, or Mitch Starc, or Usman Khawaja. They'll be in India, getting ready for a red-ball test series. Your team shouldn't really be called Australia, because it won't be Australia, just a bit of it. Once, it would have been called an Australian XI. But when we put that to the marketing people, they turned red, and white, but certainly not pink. So "Australia", it is.
Anyway, if you still know which way is up, and whether you're upcoming or downgoing, you might still get to Pune for the first red-ball test. Who knows what colour the ball will be after day one there?
Us? We'll be with the ICC in Dublin, sorting out the fixturing for the next 10 years or so. Shouldn't be too hard.
* Greg Baum is chief sports columnist for The Age.
- The Age