After another Christmas and New Year spent basking in the glory that is the Big Bash, it seems an appropriate time to consider where things go from here. At the moment the Big Bash is almost the perfect cricketing competition. A decent quality tournament that is well presented, conveniently timed and available on free to air. Throw in big crowds and the occasional classic match, it’s not hard to see why it has been such a success.
But the temptation to tinker with things means it will likely not continue in its current form for much longer. At the very least there will be an expansion from the current eight teams. And this represents the biggest cause for concern: a longer season is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it means they can schedule afternoon games again, but a drain on playing talent is. Right now the league has effectively exhausted Australia’s domestic playing pool. An expansion would mean an influx of new players of…dubious quality. You know, the sort of players that are currently stealing a living turning out for the Brisbane Heat.
The quality of the competition is probably its biggest weakness. Not that anyone seems overly fussed that the standard of the cricket isn’t earth shattering; it’s just T20 cricket after all, no one gives a shit as long as it’s entertaining and offers a reasonably close finish. But it’s a fine line between entertaining and shambolic, and the introduction of another playing squad would push it over the edge by giving playing time to too many second rate cricketers. The complete disintegration of the Sydney Sixers this season is evidence enough, where a swathe of injuries has pushed a number of, frankly, substandard players into the firing line with some pretty abject performances being the end result.
The obvious answer is to increase the number of international spots from two to three, or even four per side. It’s not immediately clear, however, if the league could attract a greater number of quality international imports than it currently does, or if increasing the quota would just lead to more Michael Carberrys. One obvious answer is to include a whole team of international players. Kiwis, to be exact. A New Zealand team in the tournament wouldn’t be out of place at all, if it could fit into the Kiwis’ domestic season, and would easily solve the problem of increasing the number of games without necessarily diluting the quality.
The second biggest concern is the commercial exploitation of the tournament. We’ve never watched I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! We’ll never watch I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, unless Steven Peter Devereux Smith were to ever feature in it, God forbid. So endless chat about the show does nothing for us. Same goes for the X-Files or whatever else Channel Ten feels the need to promote. Understandably the host broadcaster wants to milk the tournament for as much as it can, but it’s in danger of pushing people’s patience too far. Much too far.
In the same vein Channel Ten needs to be careful with its choice of commentators. So far it’s working, mostly because while it is stupid and often over the top, most of the commentators can also offer some actual insight. Mark Waugh is a current Australian selector, Ricky Ponting coached the Mumbai Indians to last season’s IPL trophy, Adam Gilchrist is, well, Adam Gilchrist. But Andrew Flintoff, while being surprisingly enjoyable, seems to mainly rely on being really, really excited. All the time. About everything. It’s a shtick that could, and probably will, get old relatively quickly, and it would be a big mistake to try and repeat the trick with a different commentator. And so whilst the Flintoff experiment has been a success, in future let’s keep all the over excited wankers where they belong. On Channel Nine.
Similarly the use of on-field players as commentators is a mixed bag. Some, like Kevin Pietersen unsurprisingly, revel in the added attention, while others seem to treat it as an unwanted nuisance. Sure, the players would have to agree beforehand to be miked up, but at times it all feels a bit forced. We don’t need constant updates from the players themselves, and honestly only a few, such as the aforementioned Pietersen, offer any real value in that role. Equally, interviewing batsmen who have just been dismissed was a disaster area even before Chris Gayle got his sleaze on. Most batsmen probably don’t want a microphone shoved in their face moments after walking off the pitch, and the reluctance of many to say anything of substance renders the whole thing largely redundant.
Otherwise it’s hard to find fault with the competition, and most of the innovations suggested seem like pretty good ideas to us. Letting people who catch a six keep the ball? Sure, buggered if we know how it’ll work but it sounds a decent concept. Playing on Christmas Day? Yep, we’d be all over that. Ellyse Perry to play with the men? Yeah, ok, we made that last one up, but it’d still be awesome. Otherwise everything is going swimmingly for the competition really. Although they might think about looking into the state of the pitch at the Spotless Stadium. That shit is just embarrassing.