After what has been a horrendous few weeks of bushfire activity in south-eastern Australia, Cricket was quick to get on board with fundraising efforts, both for the various state fire services and for the official Red Cross disaster relief and recovery appeal.
Contributions have been flooding into it from all around the world, and from some big names too. But many of the well-known donations started off locally, with tennis star Nick Kyrgios kicking things off with a pledge of $200 per ace this season in Australia.
Big names from all sport have followed in the days since.
The Australian Test bowling attack promised a neat grand for every wicket they took during the Sydney Test. I don’t know if it was a pay-as-you-take offer and that Nathan Lyon is now up for ten large, but they’re up for the maximum $20,000 as a group either way.
Every player from the Australian side signed their Boxing Day Test shirt, even squad addition Mitchell Swepson, to be auctioned off by Cricket Australia. The $800 paid for Swepson’s shirt pushed the total beyond $40,000.
Chris Lynn pledged money for every six he hit and was quickly followed by Glenn Maxwell and D’Arcy Short. The bowlers got involved too, with Peter Siddle, Adam Zampa, and Kane Richardson creating their own fundraiser for NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service and Wildlife Victoria, pledging money for BBL wickets. All three will throw in BBL shirts, Siddle is throwing in an Ashes Tour shirt and Zampa has extended his part of the appeal to include ODI wickets taken in India.
And the all-rounders are getting in on the act too, with, ahem, Fawad Ahmed pledging $250 to the Red Cross appeal for every six (yes!) and every wicket he notches in the BBL. For the record, he’s already up for $500 in sixes and $2000 in wickets.
Of course none of these can compete with Shane Warne’s extraordinary decision to auction off his baggy green, which was at well north of half a million dollars at the time of writing.
Cricket has always played its part in disaster relief fundraisers.
More than 70,000 poured into the MCG to watch a World XI face off with an Asia XI in January 2005, only a fortnight after the tragedy that was the Boxing Day tsunami that killed well over 200,000 people in South-East Asia.
Bushfire relief games have been held too, including for the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires that devastated Victoria and South Australia, and even as far back as 1967 for the Black Tuesday fires that heavily impacted Hobart and the south-eastern corner of Tasmania.
So no-one was surprised when Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts said the governing body was “very open” to the idea of a fundraising game when first raised earlier this week.
Already it seems to be only a matter of where and when the game could be played rather than any thoughts of if it could happen at all.
Warne and Ricky Ponting’s names have been thrown up as likely captains, which immediately tells me that their respective employers, Fox Sports and the Seven Network, are already on board. And it sounds like there will be no shortage of playing talent taking part, with current Australian players, current Australian female stars and BBL big names all being mentioned.
Australian coach Justin Langer has said he’ll play if asked and Michael Hussey in BBL commentary on Tuesday night said he would jump at the chance to play on Warne’s team because he didn’t fancy having to face him with the likely viewing audience and spectators watching live.
It will absolutely happen, and the idea of playing it as a curtain-raiser to the BBL final is a good one.
But the idea of locking down a venue of the BBL final to accommodate a charity game is not a good one.
As we know, the hosting rights of the Big Bash have always gone to the top-ranked side. Teams strive to win as many games as they can to finish in the top two and secure the home final hosting rights. This season they’ll also get a double chance.
The BBL|04 Final in 2014-15 saw Perth beat the Sydney Sixers in a thriller at Canberra’s Manuka Oval, with the neutral venue announced six months out with other major grounds out of action while being prepared for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
The reasoning for locking down the venue early will be about maximising time for logistics and to sell tickets and lock players in for the charity game.
But the host of the BBL final on Saturday, 8 February, will be known more than a week out anyway, with the two top teams facing off in the qualifying final on Friday, 31 January. That will be more than enough time to promote the likely double-header event.
As it stands after last night’s results, the Melbourne Stars and Sydney Sixers now sit five points clear of the chasing pack, so the idea of locking in the MCG or SCG in advance could work anyway.
But why shouldn’t Adelaide be allowed to pack into the Adelaide Oval once again should the Strikers win the qualifier? Why wouldn’t a full house in Brisbane or Perth for the double-header be just as good for both events?
BBL finals have been regular sell-outs over the eight seasons previous and often at only a few days notice.
If the bushfire relief game will really need the extra weeks of promotion for it to be a success – and I’d argue it will be a success wherever it’s played – then maybe the BBL final should just be left as a standalone event.