What does the date December 20th mean to cricket fans? Five more sleeps till the Boxing Day Test begins? Darren Sammy’s birthday? How about the date the Big Bash gets underway? What, nobody knew that? Really? Oh dear.
Like a heroin junkie planning a heist on an off-license to feed their habit (tip for the day: always choose one that has backstreet access), Cricket Australia has of late been scrounging all the money it can lay its hands on to promote its baby, the T20 Big Bash. Test cricket may pay the bills, but it’s in T20 cricket that CA sees the greatest potential for growth. As cricket desperately tries to tread water down under, whilst competing sports clamor for a greater market share over the crucial summer months, the Big Bash is supposed to be the sport’s greatest trump card. It isn’t intended to replace the long format stuff, although Sheffield Shield aficionados (all three of us) might see that differently, but rather supplement and hopefully extend the appeal of Test cricket. CA believes that the Big Bash is the means to attract new supporters, who will, in time, make the jump over to Test cricket.
So far at least, the first part of that plan seems to be working, with the two Big Bash tournaments to date attracting large numbers of fans to cricket grounds for the first time. Whether the second part of the plan will work as well remains to be seen. But of even greater concern for the heads at CA is whether or not the Big Bash is actually needed to attract new audiences at all these days; Test cricket seems to be that job nicely enough on its own at the moment – or at least the explosion in handlebar mustaches would seem to suggest so anyway. Maybe there are just a lot of amateur pornographers around these days. But given how much money has been invested in it so far, the Big Bash right now looks the black sheep of the family, the reasons for its existence looking increasingly redundant and its new bloated two month schedule unnecessarily self indulgent.
It is in this spirit that our two Antipodean-based correspondents got together to discuss the ins and outs of the Big Bash season 3.0:
Nichael Bluth: I’m really intrigued by this, which is an almost politician-style way of saying that I don’t know. The fact that the best Australian players won’t generally be in the Big Bash is definitely a bit of an issue – people would definitely be more inclined to watch if Michael Clarke was playing, if only so that they can interfere with themselves while looking at his wife in the crowd. And, to the best of my knowledge – it’s not really been plugged in any detail as far as I can tell – there aren’t exactly a bunch of big name overseas players to grab the attention either.
Having said that, the timing of most of the games should be ideal for families sitting down together in front of the TV after dinner. And it’s got to be better than any of the other shit that passes for Australian TV.
Matt Larnach: I find it hard to describe just how pissed off I am at Cricket Australia for denying the ABC the ability to call games on radio, in a move purely aimed at squeezing as much money out of the broadcasting rights as possible. Based on last year’s effort, I’m not sure the competition will make for great family fare, although Shane Warne’s retirement will probably help on that front. I foresee another season of declining crowds and average TV ratings bringing yet more hand wringing at CA.
ML: The one innovation I’d really like to see is umpires swearing at players.
NB: While swearing is both hard and clever, I’m expecting that to be toned down this year as part of the Ashes fallout. I’d quite like to see the ball delivered to the bowler via spidercam at the start of the match. That’d be pretty sweet. Actually, the Perth Scorchers not horribly messing up the final would also be pretty innovative.
NB: While I think Eoin Morgan probably has one match-winning innings in him, I reckon they will continue to stink the place out, like a bucket of KFC left in the sun. Or the Liberal Party.
ML: With Michael Hussey their big money recruit I can see the Thunder really turning heads this season by actually winning a game. Maybe even two if they are the beneficiaries of a bit of Duckworth-Lewis shenanigans.
ML: Hales. Always bet on Hales.
NB: I’d be inclined to say Hales as well, seeing as he seems to somehow be the world’s best T20 batsman, yet incapable of getting into his county side in the four day game. But seeing as you’ve said him, I’ll go for Luke Wright, who has built up a fair old reputation in these parts over the last couple of years. And we used to talk about him all the time, whereas he now goes months at a time without a single name check; 51allout writers: sort it out. Also, Jos Buttler is a massive talent but I’m not going to big him up out of principle, the shit.
ML: I like to think Tremlett has purposefully been keeping his bowling under wraps in Test cricket in order to explode out of the gate for the Sydney Sixers this season. I am also looking forward to Kevin Pietersen announcing himself available for selection after being rested from the English limited overs squads. The fallout from that would be amazing on every level.
NB: I’ll go for the Adelaide Strikers because of Alex Hales and their bowling options: Shaun Tait, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa and Johan Botha can all bring the lolz on their day but they look a fairly decent unit all told.
ML: If the mystery man of Australian cricket, Pat Cummins, makes his long awaited debut for the Perth Scorchers this year (he has been on the books of two different teams over the three season, and remarkably is yet to play a game for either of them), then they will be my tip*. But more realistically I can’t look past the Sydney Sixers. Especially if Mitchell Starc plays. But even without him Ravi Bopara will surely lead them to success.
* It has since been revealed that Pat Cummins has withdrawn from the competition owing to a recurrence of the lower back problems that forced him home from the Australia A tour of South Africa in August. This news, of course, has surprised precisely nobody, and indeed only serves to provide further irrefutable evidence of the incontrovertible truth of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Some theoretical physicists postulate that if Cummins was to ever actually play a Big Bash fixture, it may well presage the end of the universe as we know it. Merry Christmas everyone!