Cricket Australia Chairman Wally Edwards at the County Ground
Wally Edwards became the first ever Chairman of Cricket Australia to visit the County Ground in Taunton when he spent the day watching the first Women’s Ashes ODI in July.
Wally played first class cricket himself and was an opening batsman who played in three Test Matches in the 1974-5 Ashes series that Australia won 4-1.
As he sat watching the ODI Wally said: “ I am certainly enjoying myself here at Taunton and although I have only been here a short while the ground is so attractive. To be able to look at the two church towers makes you think of the history that there is associated with the club.
“I think the sense of history is what hits most Australians when they come to England because it is something that we don’t quite have back home because where I come from we haven’t been settled for as long as 200 years.”
Wally, who describes himself as a Saturday and Sunday cricketer never got to play cricket in England, explaining why.
“It was drilled into me by my father that my schooling came first, then my career and after that my cricket so that’s how I played it.”
After he finished playing Wally, who was born in Perth where he still lives went into business but remained involved on the administrative side of the game.
“I am here for the first two Test Matches and the first two Women’s ODI, but then I come back towards the end of the tour to join the boys when they go over to Ireland and hopefully when they lift the Ashes which is important to me.
“I’m in my final phase as Chairman of Cricket Australia, which I have been involved with for a long time and I am retiring in October so I’d very much like to go out with two Ashes trophies in hand.”
What did Wally feel are the biggest issues facing the game currently?
“I think that the game is in fantastic shape and the fact that we have three formats is a challenge but at the same time it is a brilliant opportunity to spread the game worldwide. I have got no doubt that T20 cricket can go a long, long way all over the world with proper marketing and promotion and care introducing it.
“It is only in Australia and England where Test Match cricket ranks as number one format and everywhere else it is the 50 over game that is number one which says something about what the public think in those countries.
“One of our primary challenges is to keep Test cricket relevant and healthy and having people coming to watch it and watch it on television and that is a challenge. I think T20 has helped Test cricket but we need to go a lot further there.
“Test cricket is a great game when it is played on a wicket where the batsmen can play shots and the bowler can beat the bat. However I think we are letting cricket down by preparing dead wickets for Test cricket and I don’t think that is the way that is should be played.
“Test cricket will still survive in Australia and England but it’s not an attractive form of the game for a lot of people.”
Wally talked about the Second Test at Lord’s which Australia won by a convincing margin.
“It surprised me I must say. The wicket was hard work for the bowlers and it was a good result for us, but I think I would have preferred a bouncier wicket that gave everybody a bit of a go.”
Talking about the changes that there have been since he was playing in the 1970’s Wally said: “ I think that the game has changed everywhere. Bats and helmets are the things that have changed it most. When I was playing there were no helmets and the bats weighed two pounds four ounces or if you were really adventurous you night get two pounds six, but now nobody has a bat that is less than two pounds eight nine or ten and the ball goes a lot faster than it did with us.
“I think the bats have changed batting and T20 has changed the game and to the better and there is no doubt that it will keep on changing it.
“The skill levels have gone another notch up and I think if you looked at England’s failure in the World Cup you could almost put it down to not having enough exposure to the modern T20 game by not going to the IPL and not having and event like our Big Bash, where it is very aggressive and competitive and the skills levels in both batting bowling and fielding have changed.”
Wally went on: “It is a great game and we have just got to keep up with it as administrators which is a challenge, because by nature we are very conservative when you are talking the world of cricket.
“It’s not very easy to get a consensus when you want to move forward whether it’s the ICC or at a national level whether its in England, Australia or India or anywhere else.
The Chairman of Cricket Australia added: “There is no question that the game is way better than when I played and I am sure that it will keep on getting better and I am really enthused about the future for cricket.”