It’s understandable that most cricketing aficionados view domestic T20 tournaments with a high degree of skepticism. The almost universal experience is that even the lowest of expectations, in regards to competitiveness, skill, etc, are rarely, if ever, met. Which makes watching your average T20 tournament rather akin to following the English ODI team. And since nobody subjects themselves to that torture voluntarily (or at least we’d hope not), it makes sense that few people bother with domestic T20 cricket either.
One exception though, is the Big Bash. It’s fair to say that the Big Bash doesn’t really match its own publicity match hype either, but that’s ok. In our opinion it gets closer to the mark than any other tournament out there. The simple test of any T20 tournament’s bona fides is whether it’s worth sitting down to watch the average game. And in that respect the Big Bash is a massive winner.
We wouldn’t claim its the best T20 tournament in the land (that’s the IPL – really? – Editor Steve), but it’s by far the most watchable. And in our opinion that’s worth a hell of a lot more. In fact we’d even go as far as to say the Big Bash has now become, for us, one of the most important series out there. More than just something to watch because there is nothing else to do, we actually look forward to it starting each year. How many other tournaments can you say that about?
So what are the reasons for the Big Bash’s success, and why do we think its worth the time to sit down and watch some Antipodean franchises with stupid names belt the crap out of each other? We’ve listed a few here:
Short season length – The importance of this cannot be emphasised more strongly. Unlike the IPL, which runs for about seven months, the Big Bash is done and dusted in about a month, with only eight rounds before a brisk finals series. Therefore the chances are that any game you sit down and watch will actually mean something. A massive point of difference between it and the IPL, where most games are about as meaningless as the average England post-match press conference.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously – This is another important one. The IPL goes out of its way to remind anyone who might be interested (and even those who aren’t) that it’s the biggest and bestest T20 competition out there. And yes, it is. But that doesn’t necessarily make it interesting. As much as the T20 format has developed in recent years, it is still at heart a bit of hit and giggle. And there is very little giggling going on in the IPL. Unless it’s by Wayne Parnell after one of Pune’s legendary after-match parties. The Big Bash is dumb and stupid, and doesn’t try to be anything else. And that’s why we like it.
Commentators – The commentators on Channel Ten do an excellent job of covering the tournament. They make the Channel Nine commentators’ attempts at ‘banter’ appear even more cringe worthy than they already are (if that is even possible). It occasionally misses the mark, mostly when the local commentators try to make Viv Richards the butt of a joke (we gather Sir Viv doesn’t like being laughed at much), but on the whole it is right on the mark.
The pitches – Admittedly this may be purely a matter of personal taste, but we feel the pitches used in the Big Bash are far more conducive to good cricket than those used in the IPL. Whilst large run totals are the norm, there is usually still enough life in the decks for bowlers to work with. In particular pace remains a genuine threat, and Nathan Coulter-Nile, amongst others, have delivered up some truly menacing spells over the short history of the competition. T20 cricket is mostly about batsmen bludgeoning the shit out of the bowling, so it is nice to see a tournament where bowlers can get a bit of their own back too.
The players – That the IPL has a better standard of players is undeniable, but its not as if the Big Bash is entirely bereft in this regard either, and there are enough big name players floating around to keep most neutrals interested. But what really makes the tournament for us is the quality at the other end. There is some real crap floating round the nether regions of the competition (most of it, naturally enough, to be found in the Sydney Thunder squad) and it’s the mix between the brilliant and the hilariously awful that makes the competition such required viewing. And in Andrew Flintoff the tournament has a player who could potentially cover both ends of the spectrum at the same time.
Shane Warne isn’t playing anymore – There is no greater testament of the competition’s increased stature than the fact that the fat, useless, pointlessly controversial waste of space has thankfully decided to waddle off into permanent retirement, as opposed to the partial retirement he enjoyed whilst playing for the Melbourne Stars.