That low rumbling noise you can hear off in the distance, akin to the noise we imagine Mark Cosgrove makes when he is within waddling distance of an all-you-can-eat buffet? That, my friend, is the noise of the Australasian cricket season approaching at full bore. Anticipation has reached fever pitch, and just the other day a pedestrian in downtown Sydney was heard to say “I think the Matador Cup begins soon”. Although upon closer inspection it was found he was actually saying “I think George Brandis is a fucking buffon”. Nevertheless belief remains high in official cricketing circles that this will prove to be the bestest summer of cricket down under ever.
Partly this excitement is the result of the fact that not only are neither England or India due to visit the Antipodes any time soon, but even better the West Indies aren’t either. But the real anticipation stems from the fact that the sooner the Matador Cup begins (which was this weekend if anyone cares), the sooner it finishes. And the sooner it’s out of the way, the sooner we can get into the international calendar. And the sooner we start seeing international cricket, the sooner we can get to the only bit of summer anyone really cares about anymore: the Big Bash.
If we had to pinpoint the exact moment when this tidal shift in spectator expectations occurred, it was probably January 2nd, when over 80,000 Melbournians rocked up to experience the excitement that is being stuck outside the ground for hours by the MCG’s new anti-terrorist screening protocols. The exhilaration of having your bags frisked for potential explosives. The tension of seeing anyone with a skerrick of facial hair being pulled aside for a full body cavity search. The thrill of entering the ground only to find all the chips have sold out and the only fast food option left is the salad. Thus was a new summer tradition born.
Sure, South Africa will be good competition in the Tests, plus Pakistan are now the number one side in the world in Test cricket, but nobody cares too much about that. Instead most people want to see Ian Bell being thoroughly average for the Perth Scorchers; Jake Reed falling over a lot whilst trying to bowl for the Hobart Hurricanes; Andrew Flintoff being excited about, well, everything. There are just so many things to get worked up about ahead of the new season, such as KP talking egostistical bollocks whilst batting, and Stuart Broad getting booed by all and sundry wherever he goes, we cannot possibly hope to list them all. Hell, even Michael Clarke might actually play a game this time around. Michael Clarke! That guy responsible for single-handedly losing the 2015 Ashes for Australia! Probably. Only he has wussed out in order to get first dibs on a cushy position in the Channel Nine box. Oh well. No great loss.
Clearly we are already a little over-excited about the prospect of Big Bash Season 2016/17, but in all honesty, it’s hard not be. There is the prospect of Shane Watson doing bugger all once again, Mitchell Johnson charging in to bowl once more at the WACA, Brad Hogg somehow defying scientific opinion by still being alive, let along playing cricket. This season is shaping up as what is already looking like a greatest hits package. Our only disappointment is that Mel McLaughlin has taken her lovely shiny hair over to Channel Seven to get away from the chauvinist pigs of the cricketing world (like us). Because if there’s any environment that pushes a non-sexist agenda on Australian television, it’s Channel Seven.
Of course, all this popularity has its down side too. Us hard core fans who have been there since the beginning (all three of us) might start feeling isolated from a competition so popular, David Squires is likely to start a new cartoon series about it soon. Sure, as the Big Bash goes on it’s likely to become ever more sanitised, ever more desperate for controversy or sensationalism. Last season will be tough to beat in that regard, especially with Chris Gayle now persona non grata, but we think we’ll somehow manage to keep our chins up. If only because the Big Bash is, inexplicably really, utterly awesome in almost every single way. Five seasons in and we still can’t quite understand just why it makes for such compelling viewing, yet it always is. And that is despite Channel Ten’s best efforts to shove the utter shite that is I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here down our throats at every opportunity.
But we digress. Sure, we are excited for the Tests too, and we wouldn’t miss any of them for the world, but you get the feeling that amongst the general public, not just the Test watching aficionados, it’s the Big Bash that now generates the most enthusiasm, especially outside of an Ashes year. Frankly, the sky is the limit for the Little Competition That Could. The IPL? Bah. The NBA and Premier League? Meh. The Big Bash is biggest ticket around these days. And long may it continue. Especially since otherwise Shane Watson, instead of just poncing around and letting everyone else do all heavy lifting, might have to actually go out and find himself a real job. The horror.