On a balmy Melbourne evening, where the temperature was around 25°C at game time, a healthy crowd of more than 26,000 people filed into Etihad Stadium. The Hobart Hurricanes were coming to town, and weren’t going to go down without a fight. A few people came from work, others who haven’t returned for 2017 yet may have visited local watering holes, and of course, plenty of families cruised around West Melbourne looking for somewhere to park for free.
The crowd was a sea of red, fans showing their support for their Melbourne Renegades, who were going to bat first. However, not before a sea of Bollywood Dancers took the field, showing their skills and forming a guard of honour. Plus there was an elephant. Not a real elephant, but a pretty impressive costume of one. And it didn’t get spooked by the crowd.
The Renegades came out and batted impressively from the start. Aaron Finch hit the ball to all corners in a well-paced half century, and was supported early by Cameron White. After the departure of the latter, it was up to Tom Cooper to finish off the innings, which he did with aplomb, scoring a blistering 53 of 24 deliveries. Amassing a total of 4/222, the Renegades had set a new Big Bash League record, and the local fans were happy. It was time to enjoy some more Bollywood dancing, and other sponsor promotions on the arena.
Then the Hurricanes came out. Two early wickets to pinch-hitting bowler Tom Cooper had the visitors at 2/19, and on the ropes. The Renegades had their foot on the throat, and were going for the kill. Hobart were well and truly gone. No chance. Game, effectively, over. Well, someone forgot to mention that part of the storyline to Ben McDermott and George Bailey, the former scoring not only his maiden T20 ton, but a first for his club, and a BBL record score too. The experienced Bailey’s job was just to get out of the way.
By the time the match was over, the Hurricanes had done the impossible. They had chased down the total on the final ball, when no one except perhaps McDermott had given them a chance. When the much-hated Stuart Broad hit the winning runs, and walked off the field – yes, he actually knows how to walk, which surprised everyone – viewers and so-called experts were calling this one of the greatest matches in the BBL’s short history.
Well, as fans filed out of Melbourne’s second-largest stadium, there wasn’t a feeling of positivity, nor did most fans feel as though they had witnessed something special.
This brings me to the other elephant in the room. Cricket Australia, along with the Big Bash League, has tried to manufacture a competition with genuine rivalries. They have told their fans to be passionate. Be proud. Get behind your team. Be tribal. Be parochial. Show your colours. For Renegades fans: #GetOnRed. Support your team, and help them get over the line.
If this match were an AFL match, it would be like going in at half time with a 10-goal lead, and then surrendering it in the second half. If you were a fan of the losing team, would you walk out saying, “Hey, that was fantastic to watch!”? No! You’d be fuming, and would probably consider buying a truckload of chicken manure to dump on your club’s doorstep.
Is this all just sour grapes from a sore loser? Perhaps. But is that the fault of the fans? Definitely not. If Cricket Australia and the Big Bash League want genuine passion and rivalries, they need to expect that fans of a club that loses a match in this manner will be disappointed. The clubs need to understand this too, and empathise with their members and fans, not be pushing how good a spectacle the night was.
When I look at my shelves of DVDs, all of the football ones show my club winning. No close losses in great games. Only wins. Because that’s what sport is all about. And last night was a loss for the Melbourne Renegades.
MELBOURNE RENEGADES 4/222 (20.0)
Finch 63 (40), Cooper 53 (24), Reed 2/54 (4.0)
HOBART HURRICANES 8/223 (20.0)
McDermott 114 (52), Bailey 59 (42), Narine 3/27 (4.0)
Melbourne Renegades: Finch, Cooper, Narine
Hobart Hurricanes: McDermott, Bailey
Umpires: Gillespie, Wilson
My Votes: 3 McDermott (HH); 2 Cooper (MR); 1 Bailey (HH).