The BBL is going downhill slowly, but surely

The ninth edition of Australia’s annual 20-over cricket tournament, the Big Bash League, ended on a rather downbeat note, with the final reduced to a 12-over-a-side affair, though the fact that it would rain on the day was known well in advance.

Despite that, the Sydney Sixers, a finalist and the eventual winner, did not want the game shifted to Melbourne due to the home ground advantage that it claimed it would have.

The other finalist, the Melbourne Stars, would not have minded moving the game so that the full 20 overs could be played, but moving it to the MCG, which was the alternative venue, would have afforded the Stars home-ground advantage. Shouldn’t professional teams be able to play at any venue and win?

Overall, the tournament was quite a letdown. There were numerous batting collapses and few teams managed to pass the 200-run mark, one that should be easily attainable, given the extent to which the boundary ropes are pulled in and the fact that there is still no limit on bat dimensions. The fielding restrictions also favour the batsmen.

The BBL seems to be attracting fewer top-notch players than in years past, and this may be due to the number of 20-over tournaments that have sprung up all over the world. The Indian Premier League still manages to pull the cream due to its enormous pay packets – but then few countries have the amount of black money that India does and in the main it is this money that is used for bidding for players.

One of the truly disappointing aspects of the BBL is the terrible standard of commentary. For the most part, the men (and the occasional woman) doing the job are past players; they may be well versed in the technicalities of the game, but their command of the English language is poor. Their communication skills are perilously close to zero.

Commentating is an art and jaded former players are not the best at it; in fact, they are terrible. There are truly great players like Ricky Ponting, who had few peers in their playing days, but who are the worst possible commentators. In Ponting’s case, he also seems to be in an awful hurry to get as many words out at one go as possible, and exactly what he is saying is often a mystery. Often about the only thing one can hear is, “blah, blah, blah, 145kmph.”

Then there are ex-players like Damian Fleming, a better-than-average medium-fast bowler in his prime, who strives to create funny words and attempts to play the joker, only to end up falling flat over his own silly jokes.

Add to it marketing people like James Brayshaw, who strings together every cliche in the book, and then some, to try and hype up a game that is already full of hype and you have a situation where the game is better watched in silence. Brayshaw appears to have stepped out of a tabloid paper of the very worst kind.

All in all, it makes for a terrible listening experience, but broadcaster, Channel Seven, is unlikely to bother about standards because it has a captive audience; anyone who wishes to watch games on another channel has to pay for the privilege.

Crowds were down this season, and again there were far too many games. The number of finalists was increased to five. Why? Is it in order that the BBL resembles the football codes? By the end of the whole show, the players must been worn out. Expecting stellar performances from them in the finals would have been akin to asking for the moon.

If the organisers, Cricket Australia, do go beyond some superficial changes next year, it would be quite surprising. Quality has never been the watchword for this organisation; it has generally been a case of the donkey praising its own moth-eaten tail.

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