Big Bash a big success

THE T20 Big Bash league has proved to be a great initiative by Cricket Australia, hitting runs in their bid to lure a strong following after mediocre results in the previous T20 competitions.

The revamped Big Bash has added some much needed spice this time round, with cities going head to head instead of the states, which really isn’t much different than that of the Sheffield Shield and Ryobi One Dayers, other than the form of cricket those competitions represent.

The BBL started on uncertain footing due to the disappointing crowd numbers of 12,285 at the SCG and 23,496 at the MCG but strengthened enough as the competition wore on, resulting in every state’s average crowd increasing from last season.

Just over 500,000 spectators attended the 29-regular season BBL matches.

The only two matches ruined by rain were the very two CA had the highest hopes for – the derbies in Melbourne and Sydney.

Despite the expectation of bad weather at both matches, the Stars-Renegades match attracted 40,227, the second-highest domestic T20 crowd and a record domestic crowd at ANZ Stadium followed, with 31,262 filling the stands for the Thunder-Sixers clash.

Two twists of this season’s BBL will no doubt exercise the minds of the promoters, as they already look towards next season.

One is the unexpected dominance of slow bowlers in the T20 format.

The slow bowlers took the most number of wickets and given that their success predominantly in test cricket, the talents of our gifted slow bowlers outside of test cricket cannot be underestimated.

The other twist, going beyond the first, was the prominence of the veterans.

Elder Statesmen Shane Warne (Melbourne Stars), Matthew Hayden (Brisbane Heat) and Stuart MacGill (Sydney Sixers) all played leading roles for their teams, and Brad Hogg (Perth Scorchers) turned back the clock to take 13 wickets overall, with only Perth teammate Ben Edmondson and Hobart’s Naved-ul-Hasan ahead of him.

So good was Hogg’s form that he was selected for Australia in their international T20 squad and also stepped down from his position as Cricket PNG National Coach, due to his playing commitments for Australia and in the Indian Premier League, where it’s expected the 40 year old will be signed up by a club when the IPL player auction gets underway on February 4 in Bangalore.

Following the Sydney Sixers’ 7-wicket triumph over the Perth Scorchers in last night’s Big Bash final, CA CEO James Sutherland will now, if he hasn’t already, embark on an extensive review of the revamped BBL, inviting feedback from all eight teams.

CA are also very bullish of free-to-air networks bidding for the TV rights deal with Fox Sports, when the current deal expires at the end of next season.

The scheduling of the Big Bash also sparked plenty of debate, and whether or not it could be moved to hold the best players to play every game, permitting injury, without the priority of test cricket becoming an issue.

But with the Sheffield Shield and Ryobi One Day Cup comps pushed to the side for 6 weeks to make room for the Big Bash already, BBL chief Mike McKenna has squashed at suggestions that the scheduling will change as well as any plans for the league expansion.

For Australian cricket it’s been six very exciting weeks, and given the clear path for players to come from T20 cricket to test level, the first inaugural year of the revamped Big Bash league has been an outright success and it can only improve.

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