The second season of the T20 Big Bash League hasn’t attracted the support the organisers had hoped for. Crowds are well down on last season and TV ratings, while still respectable, have also fallen.
The decline has seen the concept called into question. “It’s not real cricket,” utter the nay-sayers. “Plastic franchise clubs!” They cry.
The more optimistic replied, “Things will pick up after Christmas”.
But by the time Christmas came around, the rot of negativity about the concept had already set in.
Maybe for future seasons, the BBL shouldn’t start until after Christmas. If the public aren’t ready to attend before the holidays, it’s too late to build any momentum afterwards.
At ANZ Stadium on Sunday night, the two Sydney clubs – the Thunder and Sixers – played off. And although the crowd of 20,983 was the biggest of the season so far, it was more than a third less than the numbers that braved the elements on a wet evening for the equivalent fixture last season.
No expense has been spared in the entertainment for the matches, and again on Sunday night there was plenty of razzle-dazzle. Justice Crew performed before the game, and the players emerged through sparklers as the strains of AC-DC’s “Thunderstruck” blared through the PA system.
After a short period of silence for the memory of Tony Greig, the match got under way. The Thunder had won the toss and elected to bat; but were soon in trouble as they crashed to 4/27.
Usman Khawaja had survived the early carnage and batted through the remainder of the innings. Ryan Carters, Simon Keen and Scott Coyte offered some support, but there were too many dot-balls.
Khawaja hit out late to finish on 66, but the Thunder’s total of 6/132 didn’t look like enough.
The Sixers’ Michael Lumb hit out for two sixes in the early overs, but Lumb and Nick Maddinson were soon dismissed.
Brad Haddin joined Daniel Hughes in the centre, and the score passed 50. The Sixers looked to be cruising to victory.
Haddin had exchanged heated words with Chris Gayle; but the West Indian would have the last word as he enticed Haddin to hit out, only for him to hole out to mid-wicket. Open “Gangnam Style”.
The music played between deliveries, with the K-Pop anthem getting the kids up and strutting their dance moves; while “YMCA” was also a hit.
The announcer did vox-pops in the crowd, with audience members noticeably hesitating when asked who they were supporting. Maximus, the Thunder mascot, paraded around the boundary and danced on the stage. And the half-time kiss-cam gave the crowd more pashing than passion.
Meanwhile, on the field, the game suddenly got tense. Steve Smith and Moises Henriques were both dismissed cheaply as the run-rate slowed. Suddenly the Thunder had a spring in their step in the field, saving runs and the pressure began to build.
The Thunder were back in the contest, as the Sixers’ score fell behind the Duckworth-Lewis par. But their hopes of pulling off their first win faded as poor overs by Sean Abbott and Chris Tremain let the Sixers off the hook and victory for the team in pink was assured.
Daniel Hughes brought up his 50 late in the game as the Sixers cruised to the finish line.
The music played and the dancers kept moving until the end. “Party Rock” was in the house tonight and everyone was just having a good time. It was an entertaining evening of cricket, but the competitive passion was missing. I don’t think too many people really cared who won.
There was no pain in defeat for the Thunder fans and I doubt there was any joy in victory for those supporting the Sixers. Maybe over time there will be passion for these new clubs, but it’s not there yet.
And maybe it never will be. After the experience of this season, Cricket Australia must be sorely tempted to confine the green, the AC-DC, the cheer-girls and Maximus to history.
Bringing back the traditional states, in a tournament that doesn’t start until after Christmas, is an option that must surely be looking more attractive.
It was a raging success just two years ago.