Derbies kick off Big Bash League

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert


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    The Sixers face the Renegades at Docklands. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

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    Whether Twenty20 cricket’s your game or not, the second edition of the Big Bash League kicks off tonight and tomorrow night with exactly the matches that Cricket Australia re-built this series around: Melbourne and Sydney local derbies.

    The Melbourne Renegades will host cross-town rivals Melbourne Stars tonight at Etihad Stadium, while tomorrow night sees Champions League … um, champions and reigning Big Bash League winners the Sydney Sixers taking on Sydney Thunder at the SCG.

    Sunday shapes as a big night for cricket fans, with the Brisbane Heat playing the Hobart Hurricanes at the Gabba followed by last year’s runner-up, the Perth Scorchers, hosting the Adelaide Strikers at the WACA.

    The second Big Bash League, or BBL|02 as it’s been abbreviated, will of course be looking to kick on from its impressive rebirth last summer. Record ratings and sell-out crowds around the country validated the major risks Cricket Australia’s marketing department took in taking the shortest form of the game away from the states and putting it in the cities.

    The looming broadcast rights battle for BBL|03 and beyond, with free-to-air TV suddenly interested in domestic cricket for the first time again in years is further proof of the rapid success of the rebadged competition.

    Last year’s final, played in Perth and won comfortably by the Sixers, sold out in fourteen minutes or something similiarly ridiculous.

    I thought that sort of reaction was reserved for Robbie Williams concerts, One Direction or whoever the kids are listening to these days.

    I said at the top that BBL|02 will go on regardless of your acceptance, and the time for debate about this being a gimmick or not is long gone. Twenty20 cricket, like it or not, is here to stay.

    At this point, I’ll again offer up my standard advice to those that still find Twenty20 cricket hard to take: ignore the scoreboard.

    Seriously, take the score out of the equation, and you’re left with cricket in its most pure form: the eternal contest of bat v ball.

    Throw captaincy and fielding into this contest, too, and by focussing on these four elements every ball, the strategy, skills, and athleticism of the individuals stand out. Honestly, it’s a really enjoyable way to watch a format that doesn’t appeal to all.

    Where the inaugural Big Bash League had a moderate spattering of International stars and the odd sighting of top Australian players, BBL|02 was all set to that start power to new levels.

    Well it was, up until Wednesday. Within a few hours on Wednesday afternoon, the big names started dropping like flies.

    Cricket Australia decided Australian Captain Michael Clarke needed a weekend off rather than play for the Thunder, and likewise pace man Ben Hilfenhaus for the Hurricanes. Perth Test debutant John Hastings was ruled out of the Stars first game, and could yet be in doubt for the First Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart next week.

    Fringe Test quick Josh Hazelwood reported some left foot soreness in the same region where he had a stress fracture last season, and was put on ice for somewhere between four and six weeks, leaving the Sixers down a frontline bowler.

    South Africa decided Dale Steyn was needed at home, and withdrew him from his one and only game for Brisbane, making it a double marquee blow for the Heat with New Zealand Captain Dan Vettori already ruled out of the tournament with an Achilles injury.

    This was on top of the Scorchers already losing young punk Pat Cummins for some and maybe all of the series, the Strikers losing Andrew McDonald, and Shahid Afridi pulling out of his contract with the Thunder.

    About the only good news on the availability front recently is that the Hurricanes will now have Ricky Ponting for the whole tournament now that he’s retired from Test duty.

    Some predictions? Ha, not likely. With Twenty20 cricket being a lottery at the best of times, predicting likely finishing spots is almost impossible.

    On paper, the Stars and maybe the Sixers look like the teams to beat, but of course, cricket is rarely played on paper.

    I think the Renegades and Thunder might struggle, and the other four teams are just as likely to surprise as disappoint. Though, that said, I do like the Hurricanes and think they’re a good chance of going better than their semi-final berth last summer.

    So who are the key men?

    If you want power hitters, they don’t come any bigger than the Thunder’s Chris Gayle. You could be seated 25 rows back at ANZ Stadium in Sydney and still be in danger of wearing one. Bombs bowlers back over their heads for fun.

    The Renegades’ Aaron Finch, the Stars’ David Hussey and Luke Wright, Mitch Marsh and Herschelle Gibbs over in the west, Brendan McCullum and Dan Christian for the Heat. Travis Birt could kill someone in Hobart, and the Sixers’ Brad Haddin remains one of the cleanest strikers of the ball getting around.

    If it’s the quicks that float your boat, then the internationals are for you.

    Alfonso Thomas will be very handy for Perth, Lasith Malinga will skid things through for the Stars, while Rana Naved and his mullet have both been crowd favourites in Hobart for several years now. West Indian quicks Fidel Edwards (Thunder) and Kemar Roach (Heat) will bring the calypso fire and brimstone to the competition, as will Dwayne Bravo for the Sixers.

    Of the slow men, it’s hard to go much further than Melbourne, where the two greatest spin bowlers world cricket has ever known, Muttiah Muralithuran and Shane Warne will line on the red and green sides of town respectively.

    Spin bowling has become a major weapon in Twenty20 these days, and all squads are chock-full of them: Ajmal, Lyon, Botha, Boyce, Hauritz, Doherty, Krezja, Murali, Maxwell, Warne, Hussey, Beer, Hogg, Narine, O’Keeffe, Zampa.

    They’re everywhere, and they’ll play a major role in BBL|02.

    If last season was anything to go by, then BBL|02 is going to be anything but disappointing. Sparks will fly, stumps will be smashed and fences will be cleared. And whether you’re part of it or not, the crowds will be big and will love every minute of it.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • December 7th 2012 @ 8:34am
      sledgeross said | December 7th 2012 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      Brettles, I really liked watching Owais Shah for Hobart last year. Saw him play a few County matches about 10 years ago, but probably enjoyed watching him build an innings last year.
      Yeah, Im pretty boring!

      • Columnist

        December 7th 2012 @ 8:43am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2012 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Nah, it’s vaild point Sledgie, and Shah is one of the reason I fancy Hobart’s chances. Between him, Birt, Bailey, Ponting, and Tim Paine, there’s some handy ability there, for sure. Good bwling attack, too, led by none other thn Doug the Rug!

    • December 7th 2012 @ 8:54am
      Red Kev said | December 7th 2012 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      I was looking forward to the Sixers-Thunder game but now I am a bit miffed with Foxtel – it isn’t shown on the FoxSportsPlay channel which I guess means I won’t see much of the BBL this year.

    • Roar Guru

      December 7th 2012 @ 9:12am
      sheek said | December 7th 2012 @ 9:12am | ! Report


      I have found since I adopted your advice on watching each ball rather than focusing on the score, that it works for me.

      However, it’s still not cricket as we know it, Mr. Spock! πŸ˜‰

      • Columnist

        December 7th 2012 @ 10:24am
        Ryan O'Connell said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Sheek, I’m sure the magenta of the Sixers appeals to you as well?

        • December 7th 2012 @ 10:40am
          Matt F said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          I think you’ll find that the Sixers players call it man-genta

          • December 7th 2012 @ 11:48am
            Brett McKay said | December 7th 2012 @ 11:48am | ! Report

            Whatever helps them wear it Matt!

            • December 7th 2012 @ 3:40pm
              Matt F said | December 7th 2012 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

              Real men aren’t afraid to where pink Brett! Though they still feel the need to chuck the word “man” in there somewhere to justify it πŸ˜‰

        • Roar Guru

          December 7th 2012 @ 3:01pm
          sheek said | December 7th 2012 @ 3:01pm | ! Report


          Where’s Peter Fitzsimons when you need him?

          The garish, puke outfits of the BBL are not for me…..! πŸ™‚

      • December 7th 2012 @ 11:47am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2012 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        I don’t want to say I told so, Sheek, but.. πŸ˜‰

        • Roar Guru

          December 7th 2012 @ 3:03pm
          sheek said | December 7th 2012 @ 3:03pm | ! Report


          Don’t get TOO excited.

          I’m merely being reasonable & accommodating, because it’s the silly season.

          But boy, just one exposure of weakness by the BBL & I’ll be putting the boot right in! πŸ˜‰

          • Columnist

            December 7th 2012 @ 3:17pm
            Brett McKay said | December 7th 2012 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

            I’d expect nothing less!

    • December 7th 2012 @ 9:26am
      Sailosi said | December 7th 2012 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      I am pumped for this. Day off today so I’m watching tapes of the 92 Aussie tour to Sri Lanka, that famous match in Colombo and Mark Waugh getting 4 ducks in a row and Kalu getting a hundred on debut. Then it’s on to watching Alastair Cook for the morning session in India and BBL all weekend.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

    • Roar Guru

      December 7th 2012 @ 10:02am
      DingoGray said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      2nd article I’ve read on the roar re the Big Bash and quite a few players mentioned as key players who aren’t even on squads…..

      A little research wouldn’t go a stray…

      McCullum, Rana Naveed & Dwayne Bravo all listed as key players yet I’ve yet to see any of them listed on any of the squad lists!

      • December 7th 2012 @ 11:41am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2012 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        Dingo, all three of those guys were named in several different lists that I used, including the BBL site itself. Don’t presume you know how much research goes into an article of mine, thanks very much..

        • Roar Guru

          December 7th 2012 @ 12:56pm
          DingoGray said | December 7th 2012 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

          Might of been an idea to look at the squad lists for 2012/13 not 2011/12.

          Just a side note….The reason for the Mayor Hobart not being here….He was thrown into a Match Fixing scandal in Bangladesh T20 tournament….Since his name been damaged good.

          Not going to be the same not seeing the Flying Doormat playing in Australia!

          • Columnist

            December 7th 2012 @ 2:22pm
            Brett McKay said | December 7th 2012 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

            Dingo, again, don’t presume anything on my behalf, thanks very much. I know what I was looking at, and they were lists for this season. Not that I have to prove anything to you, but here’s just one of the many sources of information I used (from the BBL site):

            Now, if it is the case that Rana wil not be playing, then it certainly will be a shame, because he has become abit of a cult hero at Bellerive..

            • December 7th 2012 @ 3:38pm
              Matt F said | December 7th 2012 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

              It seems CA need to update their website then as that’s definitely last year’s list! That’s very poor by CA

    • December 7th 2012 @ 10:27am
      David of Canberra said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      Nice article, Brett – my only issue with with this competition is the name. Big Bash is not a serious name for a a form of the game that wants to taken seriously. It’s you really reminiscent of those hit and giggle celebrity cricket matches that Channel 9 used to put on, featuring Bull sets from the NRL footy show.

      What about the Australian Twenty20 Premier League? Or is the main thing to keep KFC happy in its marketing (cynical, mo!?)

      • Roar Guru

        December 7th 2012 @ 10:34am
        mds1970 said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Nothing wrong with the name Big Bash. It’s catchy, gets to the point, and is easily remembered. Like Grand Slam for tennis.

        The purists may hate it, but the box office doesn’t lie. It’s what the fans want.
        I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds this year – I’ll get out to a few Thunder games at ANZ.

      • December 7th 2012 @ 11:58am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2012 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        David, I have to agree with MDS on this one, I think its the perfect name for the comp. It’s not supposed to be conformist, it’s all lights, camera, action. I actually think something traditional like ‘Australian Premier League’ would go against everything the BBL is trying to be..