Trump, Brexit, Bowie, Alan Rickman, Syria, Harambe, numerous terrorist attacks, No Man’s Sky, Windows 10, the ridiculous levels of praise given to the The Revenant: it’s fair to say 2016 has been, by all accounts, a thoroughly shitty year. And so it is with immense relief that here, with the sweet relief of 2017 in sight, we can all come together and celebrate something that definitely will not in any way be shitty: the Big Bash. If you haven’t yet been bitten by the Big Bash bug, or have been going out of your way to ignore it, perhaps owing to some belief that T20 cricket is nothing but over-hyped, over-commercialised rubbish, now is the time to set such prejudices aside. Yes, T20 cricket is overly commercialised, and the end product rarely lives up to the hype, but that’s not the point at all. We (and a lot of other folks) love the Big Bash because it is fun. Stupid, unadulterated, over-the-top fun. And if you can’t enjoy something purely because it’s fun, well, you’re probably one of those people who thinks 2016 has actually been a pretty good year after all.
And since the one thing everyone loves on the internet is lists (and pictures of cats), we thought we’d note down all the reasons why we are thankful that the Big Bash is here again. Whilst surreptitiously ignoring all those things about it which we dislike, like Channel Ten and its bloody relentless promotion of I’m A Celebrity.
Maxwell’s exclusion from the Australian Test setup may be one in the eye for those idiots who, six months previously, had boldly declared him to be on the verge of being able to “establish himself as a firm fixture within the Australian middle order for the next decade“, but it’s great news for the Big Bash. Because, love him or hate him, Maxwell is always entertaining. Often for the wrong reasons. Which, when Maxwell is concerned, are the very best of reasons.
Once upon a time, the Big Bash could claim UK imports with the ‘quality’ of the likes of Dmitri Mascarenhas, Chris Tremlett and Matt Prior. Nowadays it reads like a who’s-who of up and coming prospects: Roy, Billings, Willey and Rashid, along with more established internationals like Morgan, Wright and the ever-popular Chris Jordan. Plus, as a very special present, Stuart Broad will be turning out for the Hobart Hurricanes this season, where he’ll be sure to be booed by all and sundry wherever he goes. It’s the little things like these that makes the Big Bash hold such a special place in our hearts.
A quick glance through the team lists for the Big Bash proves just how right Cricket Australia have got it by limiting the Big Bash to only eight teams. Because even then there is a fair share of dross going round, players who are simply there to fill out a roster. The commercial pressure to increase the size of the tournament must be immense, but so far CA have stuck to their guns, and to their enormous credit. Not only does this limit the number of mediocre players in the competition, it also allows teams like the Perth Scorchers to assemble a frankly ridiculous amount of talent.
No matter how successful we’re told the Natwest Blast T20 has been, it’s never more than a few typical British summer days away from descending into a farce as matches are abandoned or reduced to five over a side lotteries. The Big Bash rarely has such problems to worry about, with games more likely to be delayed for an hour or two so that the temperature can reach levels that allow ginger players to step out of the dressing room without melting instantaneously. It makes it a genuine pleasure to actually get out and watch the games in person (assuming you’re not ginger). And from there it’s just a matter of time before you’re engrossed in the game while wearing a KFC bucket on your head.
Despite all of those things listed above, what truly makes the Big Bash great, the je ne sais quoi that ties it all together, is the fact that very few seem to take it very seriously at all. This partly stems from the consistently excellent commentary provided by Channel Ten, where the tournament is seldom treated other than as the light-hearted early evening entertainment that it is. The organisers are also well aware of this, and attending a Big Bash game means being surrounded by a wealth of distractions, whilst a cricket game happens to be played as well. And finally the players seem to be in on this too. A few seasons ago the Big Bash was blighted by pompous, big-headed, over-the-hill veterans who tried to use the competition to settle some old scores. But then Shane Warne retired and everything got much better.
It’s not as though the players don’t care (well, we’re not sure Jacques Kallis cared very much last season), but they don’t seem to treat it with the cut-throat manner like they would an international, or even a First Class fixture. There is some sledging, sure (which is great), but that’s usually as far as it goes. Similarly you will almost never see the chest beating bullshit from fans that seems to inevitably accompany modern cricket. Some might argue this is a consequence of the fabricated nature of the tournament, but we don’t care. It’s great to see a tournament that for once is just…..nice. Honestly, it brings a tear to even these jaded eyes.