Andrew Johns is, arguably, the greatest rugby league player of the last decade. As a kid he would, like all sportsminded schoolboys in Australia, have played a bit of cricket at school and over the summer. None of this, however, explains today's revelation that Johns has been signed up to make two appearances in the New South Wales Twenty20 side for next season.
The decision to include Johns in the side for two games against South Australia (one in his home town of Newcastle on January 7, the other at Stadium Australia on January 10) has, it seems, been approved by the NSW Cricket Board, and confirmed by Cricket NSW chief executive Dave Gilbert. Johns, needless to say, is not one of the Blues' contracted players for the 2006-07 season.
If this goes ahead, it marks a significant crossing-the-line for cricket between sport and show business. Will we have more Twenty20 matches where teams have their "designated celebrity" in the squad? Who can we expect to see? Socceroos? Wiggles? The cast of Home and Away? Evictees from Big Brother? Hmm, maybe we'll be asked to SMS the name of the player we want dropped for the next game...
Maybe it's not as absurd as it sounds. It may well be that the NSW Cricket Board have decided that (a) Twenty20 cricket is not to be taken seriously, and (b) they are aiming for an entirely different spectator base to that for the traditional forms of the game. Adding celebrity involvement to the game could be a way to get more bums on seats, more money at the gate, more revenue for Cricket New South Wales.
Financially it may be a stroke of genius from CNSW chief executive Dave Gilbert. Cricket it's not, at least proverbially speaking. This will be food for thought in England, where the 2006 Twenty20 Cup kicked off (oops, a football expression there) last night.