We are now past the halfway point of WBBL|05 and most things have gone to plan. The Sydney Sixers are sitting in third position with six wins and four losses.
There is nothing quite as confronting as an over-tired child.
My first Big Bash experience was in the company of wonderful relatives Holly (eight) and Daniel (five), who – along with their mum – were decked out in the Sixers’ magenta for what turned out to be the team’s first win in the current competition.
The last-ball thriller still couldn’t keep many of the children captivated by the time it wound up, at about 10:15pm last Saturday night.
The BBL is targeted at kids – successfully if last weekend’s attendance is anything to go by – however, by the time the game reached its nail-biting climax, many of that target audience were finding it hard to keep their eyes open.
Regular bedtimes had come and gone, and not even the blasting of ’80s music between every ball, or the dancing girls and guys between overs, or the various promotions for hitting a ball through a tyre for $100,000 foisted upon the young crowd at every available opportunity could compete with the Sandman.
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The BBL is a fascinating exercise in wrapping a sport up in a marketing campaign. Of course, some fine, if frenetic, cricket is played during the competition. It is astoundingly popular at the box office and on the television; a swirl of colour and noise and sixes and fours (with the occasional morsel for beleaguered bowlers).
Holly and Daniel knew when a boundary was hit due to the flames shooting out of the top of the sightscreen. It was amazing noting the difference between the BBL game and Day 1 of the Ashes Test at the SCG – both drew similar attendances, both were games of ‘cricket’, yet one bore absolutely no resemblance to the other.
Holly and Daniel were there for a very specific purpose – to get Nathan Lyon’s signature on their mini-bats, caps and Sixers replica shirts. That they managed to do this is a testament to the way BBL players have make themselves available at the end of games (the kids woke up in time to achieve their ambitions) and speaks volumes for the work the league has put into ensuring they connect with their predominantly young audience. Other sports should take note.
The result was ultimately immaterial to the experience for many youngsters in the crowd. This is no bad thing in the context of the competition, but I wonder if it will create any sort of rusted-on loyalty as the the BBL gets older.
There is talk of expanding the league, which at the moment is more of a six-week blitz during the school holidays than a league in the traditional sense of, say, the Sheffield Shield.
The problem may be trying to fit matches into their six-week window because it seems like the tournament is, by accident or design, tailor-made for the school holidays, even though the finals take place in the first week of February.
At the end of a great night’s entertainment, Holly and Daniel were asleep five minutes after getting into the back of the car, clutching their Nathan Lyon-signed mini-bats.