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Big Bash Bore? Why Cricket Australia needs to listen to the players and cut the season

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24th January, 2022
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Thanks to COVID, administrators in all sports have had to be flexible and agile in dealing with fixture changes and the Big Bash is no different.

The cricket circus rolled on despite entire teams having COVID outbreaks. Replacement players filled the gap so that games could continue. Teams went from having three-day breaks to playing back-to-back matches in order to get all the games completed before the finals.

The fact that the Big Bash got through it all is remarkable but it also exposed the tournament for its absurd season length.

8 teams, 61 matches over eight weeks.

Cricket Australia might argue that the season length is comparable to the Indian Premier League but the Big Bash doesn’t have the cash to splash on players or the convenient break in international matches like the IPL behemoth has.

It’s a point that veteran pace bowler Peter Siddle made when asked about the problems with the tournament.

“The word from anyone overseas that I chat to is their biggest worry is they don’t want to come here for that long and be stuck,” Siddle said.

“If you’re a shorter tournament, you’re probably not losing guys like Rashid Khan, James Vince, Sandeep (Lamichhane) (before finals).”

“This year we’ve had to rearrange games … now we realise that maybe to make this season shorter, we might have to play back-to-back games and do different things.”

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The goal is to find the perfect balance between matches for the broadcasters and the actual duration of the tournament. Even in the original Big Bash seasons the tournament was running from mid-December to the end of January and that was with half the matches.

Back then the tournament was spread out and had windows around the international schedule.

A new broadcast deal in 2018 was the major reason for an increase in games but it’s having an effect on ’emotional fatigue’ for spectators and viewers. A decline in marquee players which hasn’t been helped by COVID is also not ideal.

The last season without COVID was BBL09 in 2019-20 which saw crowd numbers decline to 18,353 per game. Still good numbers but nowhere near the 26,531 figure from 2017-18 when there were 43 matches.

Increase in Big Bash matches per season

Season Dates Matches Played Attendance Average Winner
BBL01 2011-12 December 16-January 28 31 17,749 Sydney Sixers
BBL02 2012-13 December 7-January 19 35 14,379 Brisbane Heat
BBL03 2013-14 December 20-February 7 35 18,778 Perth Scorchers
BBL04 2014-15 December 18-January 28 35 23,590 Perth Scorchers
BBL05 2015-16 December 17-January 24 35 29,443 Sydney Thunder
BBL06 2016-17 December 20-January 28 35 30,114 Perth Scorchers
BBL07 2017-18 December 19-February 4 43 26,531 Adelaide Strikers
BBL08 2018-19 December 19-February 17 59 20,552 Melbourne Renegades
BBL09 2019-20 December 17-February 8 61 18,353 Sydney Sixers
BBL10 2021-22 December 10-February 6 61 8,856 (Crowd caps due to Covid) Sydney Sixers
BBL11 2021-22 December 5-January 28 61 TBD TBD
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Criticism of the Big Bash season is nothing new. It’s been a hot topic for years as the games steadily increased.

Three years ago Chris Lynn voiced his concerns about each team playing 14 matches.

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This season it was magnified even more when the replacement players diluted the product and then Steve Smith was not allowed to play for the Sydney Sixers after returning from Test duty. Siddle was on Cricket Australia’s side on that point.

“[The rules] need to be followed sometimes and obviously they just fell a little bit late for the Sixers,” Siddle said.

“It’s probably no different to us having Heady (Travis Head) and Kez (Alex Carey) on contract for the whole season.

“That’s the risk you take.”

The Big Bash will conclude on Friday night with the final of what’s felt like the longest season yet. It’s not Cricket Australia’s fault that COVID forced club cricketers to put on the pads and face up. Lessons need to be learnt though and it’s about time the players were listened to rather than simply the broadcasters.

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