Pakistan is present in England with the largest travelling squad in the history of cricket, including ten fast bowlers, four spinners, four opening batsmen, nine middle-order batsmen and two wicket-keepers.
On Sunday, I experienced the Big Bash League live for the first time when the Melbourne Stars and Renegades faced off at the MCG in the second Melbourne derby of the season.
I was lucky enough to witness one of only three memorable events to take place for the duration of the tournament, when Shane Warne instigated a heated exchange with Marlon Samuels in a futile attempt to turn the game in his team’s favour.
Despite the heavy penalties imposed on Warne, Cricket Australia would be thrilled with the publicity the incident created which overshadowed yet another dull, one sided contest.
After 27 games, the only other highlights I can think of are Lasith Malinga’s 6 for 7 in Perth and Brisbane’s last ball victory over Adelaide. Aaron Finch hitting one of the beams on the roof at Etihad stadium would probably rate a mention.
The biggest problem for the current edition of the BBL has been too many below par totals posted by the team batting first, resulting in boring run chases. The small totals are either run down with ease or the chasing team bats slowly but still wins comfortably in the end, making for a low quality contest all round.
Sluggish drop-in pitches at Etihad and ANZ stadiums have not helped the cause, with the latter making it hard for the competition’s biggest draw-card Chris Gayle, who has barely fired a shot.
Each team is allowed only two overseas players and many have failed to perform so far, contributing to the low standard of the league.
Like the IPL in India, the local talent is spread too thin over too many teams. But that tournament allows each team four overseas players and attracts the biggest names in the world, which makes up for the high number of lower profile domestic players.
Because there are more BBL teams than state teams in Australia, we are seeing players that do not normally get a game for their state. While there are benefits to that, for the most part it’s lowering the standard of the competition.
If the BBL is to survive and prosper into the future, the structure and length of the tournament needs to be rethought.
It’s clear that Sydney cannot support two teams, with games at Homebush attracting crowds below ten thousand. One team needs to be cut or relocated to regional NSW or Victoria.
The tournament needs to be shorter, which may allow more big name overseas players and possibly members of the Australian Test team to take part. David Warner would add ten thousand to any crowd.
The lower budget and time of year that the BBL is played means it will never compete with the IPL in terms of hype and worldwide exposure, but the Indian tournament is a hive of spot fixing and corruption.
Unfortunately T20 is the future, so let’s make the BBL about high quality cricket.