We’ve probably all heard older people lament about the state of the world, the current generation and the decline in general values. These soliloquies are usually best taken with a grain of salt.
However, it is exactly this sentiment, that springs to mind when looking at the Big Bash League (BBL) which has invaded the summer sporting calendar over the last three years.
For the uninitiated, the BBL is Australia’s answer to the wildly successful Indian Premier League, or IPL. Prior to the commencement of each season, players are selected to represent a number of teams as they compete in a fast-paced Twenty20 competition.Cricketers flock from all over the world to proudly represent, for example, the Hobart Hurricanes and earn a decent wage for only a few weeks’ work.
This is clearly aimed at attracting a new and young audience to a sport that can at times be a little tedious, with the format lasting a mere three hours as opposed to the traditional five day schedule.
This has obvious consequences for the way in which the game is both played and presented. Rather than carefully constructing an innings, batsmen must swing ferociously from the opening ball because the match is over so quickly. Boundaries are greeted with loud music and milestones are acknowledged by breakdancers.
Even the title of the deciding game, “The Big Final,” is terribly telling; as though calling it ‘the final’ was not going to grab enough attention. This is a far cry from the ‘gentleman’s game’ of Test cricket, where the name of the game is accumulation of runs, pressure, and mini-battles that contribute to the overall war.
Compared to the longer format, T20 cricket is about as subtle as a plane crash.
To its credit, the BBL can be applauded for making cricket exciting and increasing its popularity. In a saturated sporting market, such an achievement should never be dismissed.
Perhaps the BBL can act as a gateway drug to falling in love with Test cricket, which boasts the sort of tactics and surprises of which T20 cricket can only begin to dream. If that is the case, the BBL and all T20 competitions around the world can be seen as a resounding success -but this is unlikely.
Hopefully cricket administrators do not bleed the format dry but if money really does talk, then we can expect T20 cricket to be exploited until the life is squeezed right out of it.
At best, it should be seen as a curtain raiser to the main attraction. After all, T20 is to Test cricket as radio hits are to the classical music your grandparents listen to after telling you how bad the world has become – flashy and fun, but unlikely to leave a lasting impression.