Whether you have been “thunderstruck” by Chris Gayle’s power hitting, “scorched” by Herschelle and Hoggy, or “star” struck by Warnie and Liz, nobody can argue with the overwhelming and somewhat surprising success of the Big Bash League.
Sell-out crowds from the west to Hobart have ensured that this ‘’hit and giggle’’ competition is here to stay!
It was only 12 months ago that the Big Bash League (BBL) concept was first bandied about Cricket Australia offices in Melbourne.
Born out of substandard crowds and flailing television ratings from the now defunct KFC Twenty20 (T20) national competition, it was clear that T20 cricket in Australia needed a serious shake up.
The success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and using a formula that has also seen T20 flourish throughout the English County scene, Cricket Australia went about creating a franchise based competition that would not only create a more international and exciting brand, but more importantly, bring the crowds back to cricket.
Mick McKenna, boss of the BBL, described his visions for the competition as: “Movie length cricket, loaded with pyrotechnics and featuring eight city based teams that will prove a palatable appetizer for the longer formats.”
In that, describing exactly what the BBL has become, an unashamed financial tool from Cricket Australia to bring people back to the game.
The link between Test Cricket and T20 is one often discussed, however usually to demonstrate how exciting and appealing T20 is to the younger generation, and the appeal it holds for women and people less inclined to the game.
Test cricket, however, much to the dismay of ‘cricket purists,’ has been given a use by date, labelled a form of the game that simply cannot exist in a society that demands a result, a society that due to increasing time demands simply cannot entertain the thought of a five-day match, for a game that has transcended generations.
That link, however, and the T20 revolution, could very well be the oil that revitalises the old Test cricket engine.
Consider this: there were no significant improvements in the television ratings for the two-match Test series versus New Zealand late last year, compared to previous years or series.
The BBL was subsequently launched after months of marketing fuelled hype and has coincided with the four-match Test series versus India.
The crowds and television ratings for the BBL have been up a staggering 65 percent and 95 percent respectively on last year’s KFC T20 figures. An amazing figure given the time-frame each franchise had to establish themselves.
The television audiences for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and the Test in Sydney have risen by 35 percent on the corresponding Ashes series last year.
An extra 35 percent may not seem like a ground breaking figure, but when Cricket Australia generates 60 percent of its annual revenue from media rights, every television in every house, man cave, pub or office helps.
With the BBL due to renegotiate its television rights deal later this year for the 2012/2013 season, continued growth and support is sure to be noticed and the bargaining power and potential payday for Cricket Australia will be invaluable for cricket at all levels.
The BBL is not only bringing people back to the shorter form; it is bringing people back to cricket. It is generating interest in a game that in the last five years has struggled to justify its tag as ‘Australia’s favourite sport’. It is attracting a new demographic, and more importantly a new generation of supporters and consumers.
Perhaps Mr McKenna is onto something, and the link between T20 and Test cricket isn’t so black and white after all…