For six seasons now we have struggled to put into words just what is so captivating about the Big Bash. To define why we follow it so religiously, when we tend to treat all other T20 tournaments as a bit of a joke. It turns out we had failed to properly express just what the Big Bash is all about because we were going about it the wrong way; words are simply not sufficient and, as it turns out, only a picture will do:
The most important question is, as always, if the Big Bash was a success on the field, and the answer here is very much yes. The past few seasons, whilst massive successes off the field, have often been rather limp on it, with lots of mis-matched games, and boring, predictable results. This time around there was little of that, and only two contests, the first being the Sydney derby at the SCG and the second the Thunder vs. Strikers at Spotless Stadium, could be said to have been total write-offs. Oh, and the final of course. Every other game though, whilst not necessarily being a classic (although there were a few of those), made for compelling viewing. Even some of the one sided contests, such as when the Brisbane Heat rolled the Perth Scorchers in little time at the WACA, were still highly watchable, the latter largely on account of Chris Lynn.
Lynn was undoubtedly the success story of this season’s tournament, and in doing so made stark an issue that has been quietly rumbling on for some time: audiences would largely prefer to watch the best domestic players strut their stuff in the Big Bash than in increasingly tired and meaningless ODI fixtures. When Lynn was called up to the Australian team the tournament undeniably lost some of its spark. Although it’s a credit to the current strength of the Big Bash that standards didn’t drop away entirely when teams lost scores of players on national team duty.
Part of this is because the streamlined eight team format means talent isn’t stretched too thin (although Trent Lawson inexplicably still keeps popping up), while the other key factor is the quality of the international signings. Here the UK imports were almost universally a success: Willey, Wright, Broad, Bell, Bresnan, Jordan, Roy and Billings were all good value, Broad especially. And even Eoin Morgan finally came good at the last gasp.
That leaves one Kevin Pietersen who, whilst definitely not a disaster in terms of performances, is becoming more than a tad stale. The KP formula, repeated throughout the tournament, was to take exception with something – tape on Kieron Pollard’s bowling hand, the pitches, international call-ups – complain about it and then, stating that the game had to go on regardless, back down again. A professional, or even vaguely self-aware, sportsman (i.e. every other player in the competition) would have kept their mouth shut in the first place. But KP, by complaining about the issue, and then ‘very magnanimously’ backing down, ensured that everything – as always – was about him. It’s a neediness that is becoming old and whilst not everyone would have agreed with Darren Lehmann’s opinion that the Stars need to get rid of their ‘misfiring’ big name export (an attack almost certainly launched as retaliation against KP taking a pop at Mark Waugh earlier in the series), you can’t help but feel that after a lot of goodwill a few seasons ago, an increasing number of fans now wish KP would just piss off regardless.
Similar sentiments will likely be extended to most of the visiting West Indian contingent who, if they weren’t already either woefully out of form or out of shape before the tournament began (and hence broke down in short order), largely couldn’t seem to give a shit. Unlike Darren Sammy, who despite being awful last time around showed genuine enthusiasm, most of the West Indian players seemed pretty happy to just take the money and then bugger off at the earliest possible opportunity. With the tournament expanding in size (next season will be eight games longer), getting the right mix of overseas signings is vital and we’d hope to see more English, Sri Lankan and Pakistani players as opposed to the same old tired West Indian journeymen. South African players, too, are likely to feature more in future and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the likes of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn or hordes of newly cashed-up Kolpak players turning up from next season onwards.
Otherwise the only threat that hangs over the Big Bash’s otherwise assuredly glorious future is the question of media rights. Absolutely nobody can believe Channel Nine getting the broadcast rights would be a good thing. Sure, Channel Ten is hardly immune to criticism, and their constant plugging of their own shite television shows grates more than a little. But it’s a damn sight better than the coverage would ever be on Nine, which has the wonderful distinction of fucking up every single sporting competition they have ever got the broadcast rights for by universally treating audiences with utter contempt. At least on Ten they put some effort in, and their commentary teams are as good as ever. Even if it’s high time Mark Waugh was put out to pasture.
Everywhere else the future is bright for the Big Bash. Money, for the first time since the competition’s inception, is beginning to pour in. Sell outs are common, and next season the Scorchers will almost certainly sell out their new 60,000 capacity Perth Stadium for every game. Veterans such as Brad Hodge and Michael Klinger are finally winning some of the recognition they sorely deserve, while up and coming players like Lynn, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye and Ben McDermott have been catapulted onto the national stage. Plus it gives everybody a much appreciated further opportunity to laugh at Shane Watson a bit more. There seems little incentive for Cricket Australia to potentially sour all of that momentum and goodwill by granting the coverage to Channel Nine, just for the sake of a few more dollarydoos.