Big, bad expansion for Big Bash League?
Two reports, one in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and the other on the Fox Sports’ website, on Thursday hinted at Cricket Australia’s desire to pursue expansion of the domestic Twenty20 Big Bash competition as early as next summer.
According to Malcolm Conn and Robert Craddock in the Tele, Gold Coast, Geelong, Canberra and Newcastle are all “in the running to have a Big Bash team as soon as next summer”.
Because the “reinvigorated Twenty20 competition continues to explode”, apparently. Quick, better call the bomb disposal squad to diffuse any further potential dangers, then.
Now, excusing the entirely separate (and ongoing) debate as to the exact value of T20 as a cricket format, is expanding the tournament really the smartest idea, particularly so soon?
Yes and no.
Most fans replying via the Tele and Fox comment lines suggest there isn’t enough depth to support two, three or four more teams at present.
It depends on what you think the T20 series is for, really. Is it supremely serious, top-flight cricket? Or just a highly-paid runaround for all concerned to give school kids on holidays something to watch during January? Probably the latter.
Dilution of talent? Not really a key issue if imports can be included in each team. Even from across the “ditch” in New Zealand. Or, be bold, brave and different and add to the current cap on internationals by giving every side the option of taking on a single International Cricket Council Associate or Affiliate player – you could have some of the best batsmen and bowlers from the likes of Ireland, Holland, Kenya and Afghanistan experiencing Australian conditions more often, possibly as a prelude to further one-day international tours by their native teams.
Incredibly, Cricket Australia’s Mike McKenna told Conn and Craddock that the Big Bash League wasn’t to be revamped into a city-based competition until 2013. That was news to me. Perhaps some extra thought could have gone into its formation then? Less silly names and shirt colours that don’t have much at all to do with each team would have been a start.
Melbourne Renegades in blue, Sydney Strikers in blue, Adelaide Reds in red, Perth Scorchers in tan-ish, dusty orange perhaps, Hobart Hurricanes (if they must) in predominantly Apple Isle green and the Brisbane Heat (if they must) in maroon and yellow. Enough said. Just about perfect, it would have been, too.
Anyway, also incredibly, planning was already taking place for a 10-team competition as part of a 20-year plan to take the Big Bash up to 2030 and beyond.
The two major options being considered during that timespan are, according to McKenna “more teams and more games”. More teams would mean more games, but more games shouldn’t be bolted onto the existing teams.
“Geelong, Gold Coast, ACT and Newcastle have populations which are attractive to us who aren’t served by international cricket,” McKenna said.
He may be right, but why not offer them a combination of international and domestic cricket. Why Canberra in particular hasn’t hosted more one-day internationals over the last decade remains a mystery well beyond the level of unfathomable to me.
Personally, I’m actually all for a strong, healthy and vibrant national T20 lueague. I’m also for fun, new ideas. I’m also for a degree of sanity and logic. If Cricket Australia is intent on turning every state and/or territory on to the joys of T20 cricket, then expansion is a reasonable step to consider. It’s how the administration goes about it that will make or break the competition.
There was probably some great merit in avoiding the two-team scenario in Melbourne and Sydney from the outset and placing two new sides from outside the main capital cities that already stage Sheffield Shield/Ryobi Cup matches. Geelong (or my preferred location, Bendigo) would have been fine within Victoria. Equally, Newcastle (as suggested already) or perhaps Gosford might have done the job in New South Wales. A joint venture between the local A-League, rugby league and cricketing identities could work a treat.
But the real kicker for me would have to be Canberra. The Capital Territory Comets were a brilliant addition to the old state one-day series back in the day and it was a shame to see them get forced out in favour of a strict six-side fixture set. Let’s bring the blue-and-yellows into the frame once more.
The Comets’ venue, Manuka Oval, is the new Hobart (or Cardiff) – the place that just needs an extra stand or two and some floodlights (which may be coming within the next couple of years, apparently) to give it extra calendar clout when it comes to attracting more games. Build it and they would come, as the old Field Of Dreams adage goes.
And then there’s the television side of things. Apparently Channel Nine can bid to show the Big Bash as early as two years away (the 2013-14 summer). Is it worthwhile? Provided it’s broadcast properly, in digital high definition – along with the Tests and World Series games – and not ruined by too much advertising, then yes.
And this is speaking as someone who still is on the fence about whether the Big Bash – in its new, spanglier format – is the right kind of presentation that T20 cricket deserves (or should have) in Australia.
Cricket Australia should sit back, wait a couple of years and reassess things in 2013. Maybe give a window of sorts to the tournament – around the majority of the Test series each summer, perhaps tied in more closely with the one-day international side of the calendar during mid-January to late February, but that discussion is for another day.
I suppose expansion talk is all well and good, but the proof comes with the practical, logistical side also making sense. Having invested so much in the re-branding the T20 competition this year, Cricket Australia wouldn’t want to press the even-faster-forward button too early by mistake and cause its Big Bash to become an equally Big Crash.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.