Like it or not, domestic T20 competitions are now a fixture of the cricketing landscape. But not all competitions are alike. The IPL is clearly king of the hill, but that doesn’t mean that shamelessly imitating the Indian behemoth is the path to success. At one end of the scale lies the Friends Life T20 competition, where players still take to the field in their creams, and the crowd quaffs sherry and applauds a well considered leave by the batsman. At the other the Big Bash, where there are fireworks and fights aplenty, all whilst the crowd bays for blood.
Season two of the Big Bash saw everything bigger, brighter and louder than ever before. In one way it could be seen as a sign of a competition that was confident in itself and the product it had to offer. In another, a sign that in the face of dwindling crowds and media attention, the tournament felt the need to squeal like Dan Smith when refused a second helping of dessert. Certainly season two was a mixed bag, and for those other domestic tournaments looking to assert themselves, there were lessons to be learnt. In order to make their job easier, we ‘ve helpfully sorted out the wheat from the chaff in this season’s competition.
If you’d asked anyone before the competition began if they thought that flashing stumps and bails and helicopter cameras were a good idea, they would have probably laughed in your face. Or spat in it. But from the moment they came into use everyone realised that the new stumps and bails are one of the great innovations in the history of the game. The helicopter camera also took viewers right into the action. The umpire cam was perhaps less successful but it wouldn’t surprise us to see the other two mirrored elsewhere. Although in India it’ll probably be called Pepsi Max Stump Vision, or something equally hideous.
The match day experience
Continuing from above it’s amazing to be at a game and see the stumps light up and the bails fly everywhere as some rubbish batsman (probably Moises Henriques) is castled. Being at a Big Bash game is a fantastic experience. Yes the music after every ball might grate, and surely there isn’t a person alive not sick to death of Gangnam Style, but it makes the match much more of a spectacle, particularly for those who are newcomers to the game. Cricket Australia’s strategy is to use the Big Bash to attract young followers, who will then hopefully become fans of the longer forms of the game as well. Whether the plan succeeds in its entirety remains to be seen, but the first part is clearly already working well.
With only two imports allowed to play at any one time this is an area where recruitment has had to be spot on. And it has. The competition features all the usual names you would expect to see whoring themselves out for another paycheque, like Chris Gayle and Herschelle Gibbs, but also contained quality players such as Saaed Ajmal, Kemar Roach, Thisara Perera, Alfonso Thomas and Michael Lumb. Throw in further imports like Alex Hales, Sachithra Senanayake and Luke Wright,and you have a pretty competitive field.
Eight teams, 32 regular season games followed by two semi-finals and a final. The Big Bash is about as short as it could reasonably expect to be. And it benefits enormously from it.
It’s not on Channel Nine
We will not, or indeed cannot, comprehend how appallingly bad the coverage of the Big Bash would have been if it was covered by Channel Nine. Having the competition on pay television is a small price to pay to have the likes of Damien Fleming, Mark Waugh and Alan Border commentating rather than the simpletons over on Nine.
Mutton dressed as lamb
The Big Bash contains enough talent (Steve Smith anyone?) that having geriatrics like Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralithran as its most prominent participants in the lead up was frankly insane. They were in all the promotional material and had clearly been pinpointed to attract media and fan attention. It was a ridiculous strategy. Cricket fans aren’t idiots (apart from those who don’t follow 51allout in all our various guises), and aren’t going to be fooled into thinking either of the above are still worth shelling out their hard earned to see.
For some strange reason, about halfway through the season on-field aggression between players became rampant. Shane Warne vs. Marlon Samuels was the most obvious manifestation, but there were also incidents between Clint McKay and Daniel Christian, Chris Gayle and Brad Haddin and James Faulkner against pretty much everyone. Now, we here at 51allout are not wowsers, because clearly this is the sort of thing everyone likes to see. But it’s also all pretty pathetic. Nathan Coulter-Nile showed how to use aggression to your advantage, by scaring the crap out of batsmen to the point that they were falling over themselves to get out. The others were the acts of sad, desperate men.
Public interest in the competition peaked just as it was ending, which is a sure sign that it started far too early. With the Ashes on next year, the Big Bash will probably be pushed back to early January. Which is a far better outcome.
Eight teams is just enough to spread the local talent thin enough to the point that second rate Aussies aren’t completely dominating affairs. But the two team model in both Sydney and Melbourne has been a failure. Melbourne has just about got by, but Sydneysiders haven’t got behind the Thunder at all. And with good reason too, since they are utterly, utterly dire. Sydney is a massive market that Cricket Australia need to crack for the big Bash to be a true success. That won’t happen with the Thunder in their current state.