The current BBL finals system doesn’t work
Melbourne Stars' Luke Wright and Hobart Hurricanes' Ben Dunk before the Hurricanes' win in the 2014 BBL semi-final at the MCG. (AAP Image/David Crosling)
Whether you love it or hate it, the Big Bash League gets a lot of things right. However it’s got two prominent issues, both of which can easily be solved.
The tournament is (slightly) too long
This year’s edition of the Big Bash League has been slightly longer than previous years, largely due to the gap week slotted in prior to the finals to accommodate the international T20 schedule.
The toll of this extension was shown when only 12,000-odd turned up for the first ‘Big’ semi-final at the MCG – you would assume they were expecting a lot more than that.
Timing was the likely culprit, school holidays are over and it’s a Tuesday night.
With that in mind it’s not unreasonable to think the second semi-final might suffer a similar problem.
The easiest solution would be to shorten the season so it’s wrapped up before the school holidays end and perhaps don’t play the semi-finals mid-week.
Dropping the ‘extra’ round, so teams only play each other once, makes the most sense when looking to shorten the season.
The addition of the eighth round is clearly for financial reasons – extra Sixers/Thunder and Renegades/Stars derby matches – so any realistic chances of it being dropped are slim.
Condensing the schedule is probably the most likely alternative, and it could definitely work.
Throw in a couple more double headers, reduce the number of gap days and you could possibly shave at a week of the run time.
The flawed finals system
The current finals system simply doesn’t work and, as has been on full display the two past seasons, it’s incredible unfair and cruel to the top-placed side.
On Tuesday night, the Melbourne Stars were outplayed by a fourth-placed Hurricanes side that is, in all fairness, much better than many give them credit for.
The Hurricanes made the finals after only winning three games in the regular season, and now a BBL final and T20 Champions League riches lie ahead.
If they take out the final it will be just their fifth win of the season, three less than the Stars who strung together eight wins on the trot prior to the semi-final loss. Crazy.
Fellow semi-finalists the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers already have six and five wins respectively ahead of their semi-final clash.
That means if Perth make the final, and lose, the Hurricanes will be crowned the Champions despite having actually won less games overall than all three of their semi-final peers. Utter madness.
It was the same last year when the Melbourne Renegades were knocked out after going through the regular season with seven wins and just the single loss.
They were beaten by eventual champions the Brisbane Heat, who had only snuck into the finals based on net run rate.
After taking out the semi and the final, the Heat finished the season with six wins – still one less than the Renegades.
But none of this should even be an issue, because the ‘unfairness’ I see in the current finals system can be easily resolved while also keeping the desired three-match/four-team setup.
First place after the regular season goes straight to the final – and the Champions League.
Third plays fourth in a qualifying final, with the winner of this match playing second in the preliminary final for a spot in the decider (and the second Champions League spot).
With this system the ‘minor premier’ gets rewarded for being the best/most consistent team with an automatic spot in the final and in the lucrative Champions League.
More importantly, it forces third and fourth to earn their spot in the final by having to win more matches.