Why we want the Big Bash League

74 Have your say

    Mike McKenna of Cricket Australia

    Exclusive Roar guest column Big Bash League project owner Mike McKenna continues the discussion with Roarers about the Big Bash League.

    It has been interesting to read all the passionate comments about the game of cricket, the level of support for Interstate cricket, and the thoughts of dedicated cricket fans on the Big Bash League plans.

    Interstate cricket, in the Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup (and its previous incarnations), has been at the centre of talent development for the Australian Test and One Day team, since the game’s beginnings in Australia.

    Cricket Australia and State Associations invest millions in sustaining these competitions to help produce the best possible players for the national team. Our recent announcement that the Sheffield Shield competition will continue to be played over a full ten rounds and the Ryobi Cup reinforces our commitment to these competitions.

    International cricket is by far our most important focus and our Board and CEO continue to reinforce that position and the place of Interstate cricket to that cause.

    But let’s get real. How many people are passionately committed to their State team?

    Sure, there are plenty who follow the scores, check out the points table and are delighted when their State wins the Shield.

    However only a few, very loyal and passionate fans, attend more than the occasional match.

    We average less than 1,500 fans to State cricket clashes.

    Compare that to the AFL, NRL, the A-League or any other professional sporting League in the world and make your own judgements about the commitment of fans to State cricket.

    The Big Bash has come onto the scene in the last five years and has been embraced by fans attending matches, watching the Fox Sports broadcast and talking about local heroes. Fans are telling us that this form of the game is very appealing and that they want more.

    In that time we have had more fans attending International cricket than at any time in the past. This suggests that cricket fans are able to support more than one or two forms of the game.

    Our research and the evidence of attendees at matches shows that International cricket is still the most popular product we offer but Twenty20 is growing.

    While there are plenty of traditional cricket supporters attending Big Bash matches, anyone who has attended the Big Bash can see venues full of families and kids who would not be seen dead at a longer form match.

    Clearly the Big Bash provides an opportunity for cricket to appeal to a new audience. Cricket would be negligent to ignore this as an opportunity to engage more fans.

    Cricket is at a crossroads, the access the game had in the past to Australian youth has all but gone.

    The almost compulsory place on the school curriculum which saw most boys playing some cricket at school, the freedom to play with mates in the streets and parks until it got dark, and the family games at the beach and parks, are a thing of the past.

    Add to that societal change, which drives us to busier lives with more options to choose from, makes traditional cricket an anathema to many.

    If we do not re-engage Australian youth and the female market which, on average, has always been less enthused by cricket than male, the game will not maintain its current strong place in Australian culture.

    If cricket is to have a hope of continuing to attract interest from kids and their busy mothers we need a product that meets their needs. And if we are to be able to continue to invest in growing the game; in grassroots cricket, in the Interstate competitions and supporting the Australian team, we need to find new revenue streams.

    The Big Bash is clearly that product.

    The Big Bash changes will allow room for more teams to play more matches and deliver the experience that today’s sports fans take for granted in the winter months, frequent regular compelling content played by teams they choose to get passionate about.

    We cannot increase the number of teams under the State system which is the core of the other forms of cricket.

    The option of introducing teams in the Northern Territory etc is simply not supported by the demographics of Australia or the logistics of travel around the country for teams, fans or broadcasters and ignores the needs of the biggest population centres.

    We are not changing State cricket.

    Fans that follow their State teams now will be still be able to watch the Bushrangers, the Redbacks and the Blues fight it out in the Shield and Ryobi Cup for years to come.

    The Big Bash League is set to grow and we would like all cricket fans to give it time to develop.

    Try it and ideally embrace it, but you’ll make your own choice.

    Have Your Say

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    The Crowd Says (74)

    • February 28th 2011 @ 8:23am
      sheek said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:23am | ! Report


      Thank you for continuing the dialogue with Roarers re the future of the various forms of cricket.

      Okay, Shield cricket is poorly attended, & was ditto 20-30-40-50 years ago. In fact, Shield cricket hasn’t had massive crowd attendances I suspect, than since before WW2.

      But interestingly, although people didn’t attend games, we were/are like a massive “5th column” army following the Shield via radio, newspapers & TV highlights. And today, also via internet.

      Pure live attendance figures won’t ever give you the ‘big picture’ or ‘real story’ behind the support of Shield cricket by Australian cricket fans.

      There are several things you can do to make Shield & test cricket more relevant to today’s society – in my humble opinion.

      Reduce tests from 5 x 6 hours days (max 30 hours) to 4 x 7 hours day-nights (28 hours). Similarly, Shield can be reduced from 4 x 6 hours days (24 hours) to 3 x 7 hours day-nights (21 hours). The net loss of hours in either case is only 2 & 3 hours respectively. But a whole day is saved in each instant.

      Encourage workers on work days to come & watch the 2nd &/or 3rd sessions after work. Similarly, encourage families & young folk on weekends to come & watch the 2nd &/or 3rd sessions after their other commitments to shopping, housework & sport, etc.

      The technology is already there – lighting, coloured clothing, coloured balls. Okay, we still have to decide on the best shade of colour for night balls, but that can be overcome. As for evening dew, well that’s just another problem players have to overcome regarding pitch, field & overall weather conditions.

      You don’t necessarily have to come up with a new form of cricket, but merely give some attention to & sprucing up of traditional forms. Also be careful not to tinker too much with 50 overs cricket.

      I hear people find the middle overs of 50 overs cricket boring? But have our lives become so empty that we need to be entertained by EVERY ball of EVERY over? One excellent suggestion I’ve heard is this – if batsmen can bat for as long as they like (until out), why not give one or two bowlers more overs? Say, a max of 15 overs for one or two marquee bowlers.

      Okay, I accept we need T20 cricket, but not at the long-term expense of test, Shield or 50 overs cricket. As my good mate Vinay Verma says, cricket can have all 3 forms.

      This is fine, but my fear is that CA will go goggled-eyed at the revenue possibilities of T20, & allow their greed to destroy the traditional forms. If money is the only or even primary motivator for structuring your season, you will eventually kill off all cricket.

      Also, why do we need to come with gimmicky names for these new city-based teams? Selecting nicknames/logos that identify with a city or region’s history & tradition is important. All marketeers should be put against a wall & executed!

      For starters, NSW can become Sydney Blues; Victoria can become Melbourne Bushrangers; SA can become Adelaide Redbacks: Tasmania should remain Tasmania Tigers, & so on. This is how things will probably evolve in any case. But a link remains between the new city teams & former states dating back to 1892/93 & beyond.

      • Roar Guru

        February 28th 2011 @ 8:46am
        Rellum said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        Just to correct something, I was part of the sell out crowd that saw QLD win the Shield Final in 94/95 so while it was a while ago it certainly wasn’t that long ago either.

      • February 28th 2011 @ 7:49pm
        Crazy Dave said | February 28th 2011 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

        Shield cricket is also the training ground for our Test Players… and all Australian boys who have any interest in cricket, have a desire, a wish to play for Australia, to wear the Baggy Green…

        I don’t agree with changing anything to do with Test or Shield Cricket… the format works so don’t change it… However I do agree with your comments about the 5th column… I have been to only about 5 games in my life time… one day here or there in Shield Cricket and maybe 2 games of State ODI… But when people ask me my fav sports… there are always two that I list first… Rugby League and Cricket, Cricket and Rugby League…

        I love to watch the shorter versions of the game… but nothing beats the strategy, the stamina, the week-long thrill of the Shield and Test Cricket! While I would love to watch more at the ground, I can’t always make it, afford it, etc… and I love my Radio Coverage (thanks 612 for awesome commentary) and I pore over all the media reports I can access…

    • February 28th 2011 @ 8:46am
      Funktapuss said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      You guys do realize that state one day cricket used to get decent crowds in the 1980s just like Big Bash is getting now? And back then you had all the internationals playing all the time unlike you get now.

      That should tell you something.

      The big flaw in this whole concept is the player’s participating are not the best in the world, which is what is required to get the largest attendances long term. ie. English soccer, AFL, NFL, American baseball etc..

      By year 3, you will be lucky to get 5k a match to the MCG.

      You guys are trying to make cricket something it is not. You are alienating your cricket fans in order to chase this mirage.

      Good luck, you are on your own.

    • February 28th 2011 @ 8:56am
      formeropenside said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      Get the Shield back on TV somewhere, get print media to cover it properly – it used to be back page news, now its 1-para buried deep in the sport section.

      • February 28th 2011 @ 9:10am
        sheek said | February 28th 2011 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        Yes Fossie,

        Live TV sport DOES mean a lot. It’s self-defeating to cry about lack of live attendances, when a particular sport struggles for exposure. Ditto super rugby.

        • Columnist

          February 28th 2011 @ 9:24am
          Elisha Pearce said | February 28th 2011 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          I agree with getting it on FTA. For a start, there is enough room on ONE HD during the day/evening for the ryobi cup games to be shown for sure.
          The arrival or Murdochs at TEN may kill ONE HD but Cricket Australia should really have that conversation asap.

          • February 28th 2011 @ 7:52pm
            Crazy Dave said | February 28th 2011 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

            How about a cricket dedicated HD TV Channel…. Free to air… Offered up by 9 or ABC… Could show live cricket (Test, Shield, ODI) and when no games are live, either show other games (recorded) or panel shows discussing recent events…

    • Roar Guru

      February 28th 2011 @ 8:57am
      Rellum said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      Mike you again have provided no reasoning or evidence that creating new marketing entities is required. If you want more games you could play a full home and away season and include the only ACT if you think the Northern Territory is not financially worth it. If these Families and women are attending 20/20 games then you have already show there is no need to re-brand the teams.

      Are the test players going to be made available for this but not the Shield?

    • Roar Guru

      February 28th 2011 @ 8:59am
      Vinay Verma said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Mike, you start by saying your board and CEO “continue to reinforce” the position that ‘International cricket is by far our most important focus” And state that interstate cricket is vital to that focus. Let us list the sins of omission in this regard:
      1. The best players are not available for the Shield and as a consequence our “talent” stagnates. You cannot improve unless you are playing against better opposition.
      2. What has CA done to improve the attendances? And why would anyone want to watch a competition where the best players do not play?
      3. Has CA ever insisted that broadcasters (TCN9 and Foxtel) show more Shield Games? Pay TV is beyond the reach of many and without FTA the game cannot reach many fans. Why is the ABC not given the rights if Channel 9 refuses to show the Shield? With the increase in digital channels why is not feasible for the Shield to be shown?
      4. Why cannot a window be cleared in September-November whereby the Shield can have the leading players play? The Australian team will have no cricket between April and August and then head off to Sri Lanka? Why not cancel the tour to Sri Lanka? You will say you have an obligation to the Future Tours Program. Recent history suggests this is moulded to suit short term objectives. A case in point being the hastily arranged two test series against India last October. This cruelled Australia’s chance in the Ashes. Not to mention the ridiculous edict directing Bollinger and Hussey to play in the Champions League. I would suggest bi-lateral arrangements have taken precedence over what is good for Australian Cricket.
      Not only have you devalued the Shield but this has the effect of undermining Australia’s International standing. Attendances rise when the national team is doing well in Tests. The figures for this summer are inflated by the Ashes and next summer it will be because of Tendulkar and Sehwag. It does not mask the slide in Australia’s ranking to 5. This slide can be attributed to CA’s focus on the BB. It can be a result of inferior coaching and an overemphasis on producing short-form short-skill cricketers. More Twenty20 has been scheduled into grade and district competitions. This is not a case of “the Big Bash is clearly that product” but a case of the Big Bash must be that product.
      Mike, the harder task is to make cricket at all levels more “compelling” This means good coaching of the basic skills at junior levels. Not the indiscriminate slog-sweep to cow corner.
      Having failed in your most “important focus” why would an increasingly sceptical public think you have the answers to our cricketing future?
      You say you have research that backs your push to expand the BB.It would be in the public interest to study this research. Presumably Channel 9 had research to back their Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth. It lasted just 3 episodes.
      The Big Bash will not have the best Australian players available next summer if as you state the competition will run from December through to January. It is also puzzling why you would have the BB go head to head against the Tests against India. There is already too much cricket and you will definitely alienate your existing loyal supporters. It is debatable if any of the BB fans will have an interest in watching a competition where the best are otherwise engaged. The kids you are banking on have to be brought to the game by their Mums and Dads. They will not spend money on watching your “heroes” who are unable to play for the National side because they are not good enough. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
      Who are the “investors” willing to take a 49% stake in the new BB franchises? I would have thought we have a right to know. The Stanford debacle taught the ECB a lesson in due diligence. The IPL is not exactly pristine. It would be good to know where the money is coming from and if it is sustainable. For all the IPL’s riches payments to players seem to be continually delayed.
      In the end cricket in Australia is run by an unpaid army of volunteers who do it for the love of the game. These are your most loyal constituents. These are the opinion leaders that you should be talking to. Many of the club Presidents I talk to are not happy with the extra Twenty20 games that have been scheduled. We have respondents complaining about U-12’s playing Twenty20. Cricket is not a trifling pastime. It is a way of life. It cannot be pigeon-holed into a neat marketing exercise.
      I understand that Twenty20 has a market but it should not be at the expense of your existing market. Australia’s cricketing heroes go back a long way. Bradman, Benaud, Border and before them Bannerman, Spofforth and Trumper.Lillee, the Chappells, Waugh, McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist and Ponting.
      And what do you propose to give us? Tait and Warner? Why would someone like Brian Taber caution against sending Patrick Cummins to the Centre of Excellence? I would suggest because he thinks the name is a misnomer. Past greats can’t all be wrong. The structure of cricket in Australia is not producing cricketers that have the skills to play International Cricket. Get the process right and everything falls into place.
      There was a time not so long ago that a Bradman Baggy Green sold for more than $300,000. The Bradman Museum in Bowral is self funded and does more for the legacy of our cricket than anything the BB could hope to achieve. I come into contact with a lot of young cricket players and fans both in Australia and in India. These people can tell an outswinger from a marketing curve-ball. They are not your fair-weather channel hoppers. These are the ratings that would impress the most hard-nosed broadcaster.
      If you want to look at the IPL as your model for success it would be worthwhile to remember it is built on the best players being available. I suggest these “best” players are all Test players..Kallis, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Pietersen, Gilchrist, Hussey, Lee, Steyn. You will have the odd Warner, Christian and Pollard but these are exceptions. There is no shortcut. Australian cricket will prosper when the National team is strong and skillful.
      I have spent the best part of my life in Australia and till two years ago extolled CA as the best run cricketing administration in the world. I have had thirty year involvement with a Shires club. I know the grants that are disbursed to Grade and Shire clubs and all this helps. But in the end we pay for our own coaches, we sell raffles to build sightscreens, we scrounge and save to play proper cricket. We twisted the council’s arm and fought with the Dept of Sport and Recreation to build a clubhouse and I would say we are no different to all the clubs in Australia who support cricket.
      I also have children in their twenties and thirties who are disenchanted with the cricket that is being played. Their children will probably share this disillusionment. If you multiply this by all the other parents around the country you may get an idea of the angst we share.
      You may succeed in jazzing up the viewing experience for those at home but ultimately the “product” (your terminology) will live and die by the game (my terminology) that is played in harsh sunlight. At the moment it does not stand up to the scrutiny.

      • Columnist

        February 28th 2011 @ 9:33am
        Elisha Pearce said | February 28th 2011 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        You bring up some good points Vinay, here is the one that stands out to me – 2. What has CA done to improve the attendances? And why would anyone want to watch a competition where the best players do not play?

        The point of Big Bash is that it doesn’t take the best cricketers in the country to make big bash more exciting. That is the downfall of this type of game. Warner can legitimately be called a ‘star’ of this form of the game. Yeah, he is a pretty good short-stop that can bat as well as him would make Derek Jeter a think of the past at the Yankees, but real cricket terms many cricket players have what it takes to swing and miss one day and get a quick-fire 20-30 the next day. Thats all it takes.
        So your point probably highlights a lot of the problem.
        The big bash is going to become another watered down product that has taken to much of our calendar and precious funding.
        Unless, of course, Indian TV contracts fund it. But that won’t happen, we were promised.

      • February 28th 2011 @ 8:03pm
        Crazy Dave said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:03pm | ! Report

        Well said Vinay!

      • February 28th 2011 @ 9:11pm
        Funktapuss said | February 28th 2011 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

        Vinay, you should working for Cricket Australia.

        • Roar Guru

          February 28th 2011 @ 10:59pm
          Vinay Verma said | February 28th 2011 @ 10:59pm | ! Report

          I am working for Cricket in Australia but i don’t get paid for it.

    • February 28th 2011 @ 9:44am
      Wall-Nut said | February 28th 2011 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      I’ll speak for the silent masses, I have never been to a Sheffield Shield game and never will. I’ve attended 2 big bash games and several international 20twenties. Simple reason….it’s not cricket!!!! Sheffield Shield is in competition with going to a nice lunch in the city, BBQ’s, beach, movies, spending time with friends and family, hobbies etc etc etc

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      • February 28th 2011 @ 9:14pm
        Funktapuss said | February 28th 2011 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

        Well, your not exactly a loyal customer of the mickey-mouse format of the game so I don’t think us cricket people should just burn everything for your sake.

        May I suggest baseball.

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