On 2 January 2016 a crowd of 80,000 people turned up at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch the Melbourne derby between the Stars and the Renegades in the Big Bash League, a record for an Australian domestic cricket match.
Six years later the same fixture drew a crowd of just 21,000 spectators.
Public interest in the Big Bash League has fallen significantly over the past few years, but there are several things Cricket Australia could do to revive its ailing golden goose. Here are just some of them.
Cut back the number of games, including finals
There were 32 regular-season games in the 2016-17 season along with three finals for a total of 35 games.
Currently there are 56 regular-season games along with five finals, making a total of 61 games. It’s just too many.
Ideally the tournament should be cut down to a 32 game regular season, but a 40-game season would be an acceptable compromise.
Further, the current finals system goes for a week, which is a bit too long for what’s supposed to be a short, punchy tournament. Instead we should have a finals day, similar to the format of the T20 Blast in England, with both semi-finals and the final on the same day at the same ground.
Shorten the fixture window
The BBL should start a couple of days before Christmas, around 20 December, or alternatively it could start on Boxing Day. The tournament should be wrapped up by the end of January.
Get big-name overseas players
Players like Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan, Angelo Mathews and Dwayne Bravo have been playing in other leagues at the same time as the BBL. Cricket Australia should be making every effort to get these types of players involved in the domestic competition. The shortened season would also make the tournament more attractive for overseas players.
A game on free to air every night
It is essential for there to be a Big Bash League game on free-to-air TV every night. If Foxtel wants to have exclusive games, they need to be part of a double-header – for example, if there’s a 3pm game and a 7pm game on the same day, Foxtel can have exclusive rights to the afternoon fixture, but the evening match needs to be shown free to air.
Make Australian players available
Australia shouldn’t play any international cricket between the end of the Sydney Test and the end of January. This would allow all Australian international-level players to play in the second half of the competition.
What do you think, Roarers? Would these suggestions help revive the Big Bash League?