The large swathes of empty aqua seats encircling the SCG on a perfect blue-sky day said as much about the sorry state of Australian cricket as did the punishing numbers on the scoreboard.
Australian cricket fans are staying away. At least for now.
The day-one crowd for the fourth Test against India was posted at 33,678. Longtime SCG watchers scoffed at that figure.
It is well below the regular 43,000 that turn up for day one at the New Year’s Test in the Harbour City.
Day two saw a further drop off, with just 25,655 fans turning out for a Test match that had become a passing-out parade of sorts, a celebration in recent decades as Australian cricket enjoyed its glory years.
Australians may one day forgive the sins of 2018’s Cape Town calamity – but not yet. And not while their team is being rag-dolled by an Indian side determined to bat them into the dirt.
India went from dominating Australia to humiliating it on a day that saw Australia’s bowlers ground into sawdust by a team that knows its historic mission is within reach of completion.
— #7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 4, 2019
As Tim Paine’s team battles to keep its nose above the tsunami of Indian runs, there’s a growing sense of foreboding that this is the future – and it’s one that promises a lot of pain.
Amit Gupta is the cricket correspondent for India’s Mumbai Mirror.
He’s been shocked at the level of discontent he’s encountered from the Australian cricket public toward their team.
“You can sense the anger there right now about the team and the sandpaper-gate crisis. No one I have met has been supportive of the team,” Gupta told The New Daily.
Gupta is surprised that Australians have reacted so fiercely.
“From a personal point of view – I’ve been telling people – they’ve not done a crime. They tampered with the ball, which has been happening for many years. They were caught, they paid a heavy price for it.
“Once your Prime Minister gave his opinion, they were definitely going to be banned.
“What I’ve discovered since arriving here is how the Australian public felt very angry. They felt their team was not humble, they were arrogant and they deserve what they’re getting,” Gupta said.
That fury at the national team has been compounded by an Indian side who have sensed their opponent’s vulnerability and gone for the throat.
India’s 7-622 was the second highest innings total at the SCG in Test cricket.
Rishabh Pant gets his first 100 against Australia.
— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 4, 2019
The sight of an exhausted Josh Hazlewood trudging back to his mark during the last overs of India’s innings was pitiful. Every step the big fast bowler took looked like it was on hot coals before he steeled himself to charge in one more time
Rishabh Pant trying to reverse sweep one of the paceman’s deliveries as the innings drew to a close may not have been a sign of disrespect, but it sure was confirmation of how docile the bowling had become.
Australia had been forced to submit.
Gupta senses that many Australian cricket fans feel vindicated watching this team being bullied.
“The thing that has hurt them [the fans] is that over years this has been brewing. They’ve been unhappy with the culture in the team.
“That is why when this [Cape Town] happened they felt – this has always been the case and so be it. They feel karma has caught up with them,” Gupta said.
While Australian cricket has its long, dark night of the soul, these are special days for India.
Gupta said that winning in Australia is the biggest prize in Indian cricket.
“This is massive. Massive. This team was expected to do well in South Africa and England last year and when it didn’t happen both Shastri [coach Ravi Shastri] and Kohli were under pressure.
“In 71 years we have been coming to Australia and have not won here. So in that sense this is the final frontier. We’ve come here with great teams and players who have not won.
“One cannot understand how massive it would be despite Warner and Smith not being there. It’s huge,” Gupta said.
Two cricket countries with two very different tales to tell.
In what way Tim Paine and his team re-write the script about Australian cricket will be fascinating to watch.
How they win back the hearts and minds of Australia’s cricket public will be a lot tougher than even they imagined.