Big Bash League set for expansion and mediocrity

Cricket Australia is all set to expand the number of Big Bash teams next year – and in the process slowly begin killing the goose that has so far laid many 22-carat eggs.

In its sixth year, the BBL has been an overwhelming success until last year but there are signs that people would prefer that things remain as they are.

For example, the biggest crowd last year was for the clash between the two Melbourne teams, the Renegades and the Stars. A total of 80,883 turned up for the first clash between these two teams in 2015-16.

This year, 2016-17, the crowd for the corresponding game was nearly 10,000 less. Should Cricket Australia not take a hint from occurrences like this? Crowds in 2016-17 have, on the whole, been less than in 2015-16.

As of today, 22 matches have been played; there are another 10 to go before the semi-finals and final. Only in two games, have teams been asked to chase 200 or over. That means only two teams, the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Stars, have managed to make 200 or over.

Most of the games have been one-sided. Just two games have gone down to the last ball. Not a single century has been scored.

Overall many of the players seem to be jaded. That is not surprising for there are now so many Twenty20 leagues around the world — Pakistan (played in the UAE), the West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh all have their own leagues — that many players who are now literally T20 mercenaries come to the BBL after having played in at least a few of these competitions.

If they are mentally tired at the end of the year, who can blame them? They are playing as much as they can for it is their livelihood. They have only a few years in which they can earn money from this form of the game.

The TV commentators make the game unwatchable. There are a host of former Australian players who form the commentary team and to say they are mediocre would be paying them a compliment. T20 cricket itself sees heightened action but these ex-players keep trying to hype up everything. They have limited vocabularies and dumb down things to an incredible level.

Damien Fleming and Adam Gilchrist are horrible at the mike and it is clear that they are there for the money. They were both competent cricketers but have reached their level of incompetence as commentators. Gilchrist makes one cringe, he cannot speak a sentence without acting as an arse-licker of a very high order.

Some of the other commentators have clear conflicts of interest: Mark Waugh is a national selector and it is unethical for him to sit in the commentary box making comments about players whose futures he could well decide. But then one would recall that he is the same person who took money from a bookmaker when he was a player. The same goes for Ricky Ponting who is now an assistant coach for the national T20 team.

But hey, who gives a flying f*** these days? There’s good money available to these poor-quality commentators so they take it and run. Not that they need it. They lack the integrity to act in an ethical way.

Back to Cricket Australia and its expansion plans. One doubts that its chief executive James Sutherland will bother much about whether crowds grow or whether people watch; after all, CA will make its money before a single ball is bowled. The TV contract will increase, the TV channel in question, Channel 10, will welcome the additional games, and all will be right with the world.

This year there are 32 games; each team will play the others and the two Melbourne teams, the two Sydney teams, Adelaide and Hobart, and Brisbane and Perth, will play each other twice. Once the expansion is complete, that number of games will increase. Do people want to see more and more ordinary games that are won by big margins or do they want to see better games that go down to the wire?

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