Cricket: What is our priority?

May 3rd, 2013, from a statement from Cricket Australia, “The Big Bash League (BBL) will become a tighter competition over the next 5 years, starting later in December and concluding earlier in the new year.

July 22nd, 2013. Cricket Australia release the 2013/14 BBL fixture (see here). The 2013/14 BBL will span 58 days, up from 44 days the 2012/13 competition ran for.

The fourth and fifth Tests will be played in conjunction with the BBL. Probably not too bad a result given Sheffield Shield cricket looks like being played right up until the end of the 3rd Test. But then that’s it. Australia will fly out for a 3 Test series in South Africa after all its players have taken part in either two months of the T20 franchise based game, or the One Day International series against England.

The T20 tail is wagging the cricketing dog. But what shape is the 20 over format in? Channel 10 have paid $100 million for 5 seasons of exclusive coverage of the BBL. The BBL in both its current and former state based format has been an excellent performer for Fox Sports. But does that translate into free-to-air eyeballs? Do kids these days really like watching manufactured teams with stupid nicknames play in awful fluorescent colours. Personally I have chosen to follow the Melbourne Stars, because they play at the MCG and not at the soulless Etihad Stadium. And because Warney signed on for them. But there is no passion. I don’t care whether they win or lose. This wasn’t the case when the Victoria Bushrangers played in the BBL. Or when they play in the other formats. Sport is all about passion, and people have been following Victoria since 1851. It means something when they play. Hopefully for cricket’s sake the BBL is a success on Channel 10. There’s a long way to go given the dismal crowds the ‘second’ teams in NSW and Victoria, the Sydney Thunder and the Melbourne Renegades attract at their unpopular venues in ANZ Stadium and Etihad Stadium. While the other 6 teams attract crowds at their venues that the 6 state teams would surely have still been able to muster . The Sri Lankan Premier (T20) League has folded. The Bangladesh T20 competition still hasn’t paid several players from its last season.

Who is the biggest cancer in Australian cricket, S.R. Watson or Twenty20? Or are they both equally as destructive? English (even the South African and Irish ones) players have played the shortest format for longer than us. Australian cricket is as low as it has ever been. Re-organising the structure of an Aussie cricketing Summer should be a huge priority. I still stand behind the ideas expressed in this article-  http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/re-organising-the-cricket-schedule/  Test and Sheffield Shield cricket need to be the major, serious part of the Summer schedule. Compare the massive interest in this Ashes tour against the ODI’s to follow, the IPL or the last BBL.

For a final word on Cricket Australia’s announcement of the 2013/14 BBL fixtures just one day after our embarrassing loss in the second Test, this brilliant article by fantastic young Cricinfo writer Brydon Coverdale is well worth a read- click here

About Luke Reynolds

Somewhere down there between daytime and the dark.

Comments

  1. Crackers, I shake my head. Cricket Australia is shameless. They preach that they are all about Tests, then simply change their mind and extend the Big Bash after consultation with their paymasters. James Sutherland believes he and his organisation is a success because of their balance sheet. The results on field seem incidental.
    Of all the knocks on Shane Watson, the biggest indictment to me is the fact he earns $5 million a year. $5 million. Why should players like he and Warner care about their Test performances if they can earn money like that. Money like that attracts people who tell you what you want to here.
    It is a long long way back for Cricket Australia – the first step is to not simply admit you have a problem (words are cheap) but to believe it and have the character to act on it.

    I bumped into Brydon at a tram stop yesterday. He’s heading to the UK today for the remainder of the series (this after his trip to India for the recent tour). Not a bad job, I said. He agreed.

  2. Well spoken Luke. I read Brydons’ article, which helps shed further light on the disproportionate influence this form of cricket currently has.

    I had to shake my head reading the article by Chloe Saltau in the Tuesday Age which quotes Mike Mckenna from the ACB waxing lyrical re the virtues of the BBL, this coming straight after our demise at Lords.

    How much longer can James Sutherland remain in his position? Who the hell are the Mike Mckennas, and Pat Howards of the ACB who know all the corporate speak, but have presided over a downturn in the status/fortunes of Australian cricket, which is at the lowest ebb i can recall.

    In the late 1970′s and the mid 1980′s Australian cricket was torn asunder by players being lured elswhere by the $$, so the teams we fielded were never really the 11 best palyers in Australia. The current side is! What is to be done?

    Glen!

  3. Luke

    Well said and great writing.

    I don’t have an issue with BBL per se. It is a form of cricket played around the world nowadays and has the potential to make money, so it has a place. However, it is what sort of place and profile that I think needs debate.

    The timing of the announcement showed astonishing poor planning. It was almost as if CA thought it would distract us from the Test result or sheer us up; could we possibly be as a cricket public perceived to be that dumb.

    By all means, launch the tournament, but can’t the right hand talk to the left? Have the brains to delay it, distract us from Test talk this week, when there’s just speculation and a tour match to look forward to. Think about the impact of touting Pattinson and Siddle as recruits to BBL, after their Test workload and subsequent injury issues.

    Managed well, the three forms can co exsist. There’s no real overseas sport comparison I admit, of a world sport playing three different forms at international level all with different rules. But if companies can spruik competing products in the same market, all made by them, successfully (Coke, Fanta and Sprite) cricket if they had some brains could get it right.

    However, I agree, the tail is wagging the dog and we have seriously invested a lot in the long term future of 20/20 and BBL, when is seems that the support is waning here and overseas. I introduced my son to going to the cricket through 20/20 and the early state vs state games were brilliant. Having attended a few internationals and one BBL game in recent years, I was amazed at how dry and stale they were by comparison. Like you, I ended up being interested in a player’s performance not a team.

    Coverdale’s piece was brilliant, Saltau’s too.

    The Poms have taken our model, of central contracts and academy and improved it. A two tiered county comp, which we can’t do, has helped too. But overall, it is clear that the inability to build an innings, through poor shield pitch preparation and so much focus on shorter game formats (witness Watson’s repeatedly playing across the line and Hughes’s inability to play spin for over and after over) is having a major impact

    Sean

  4. e.regnans says:

    Good on you Luke.
    Adding a reasoned voice to those mentioned above (Saltau, Coverdale, Baum).
    I enjoyed your scheduling suggestions in the other article, too.
    From this safe distance, it does seem that priorities are the problem.
    Many professional employers have turned to competency-based assessment of workplace skills and (at least in Government organisations) merit-based appointments. Cricket Australia should do the same.
    For the administrators & coaches & whatnot, I have no axe to grind. But they do need to enunciate exactly WHICH SKILLS THEY SEE AS IMPORTANT to the cricket “workplace”. Is it the demonstrated ability to play a ramp shot and score at a strike rate of 170 for 2 overs? Is it the demonstrated ability to face 300 deliveries over 6 hours without being dismissed? Is it the demonstrated ability to bowl a conservative economy rate? Or to bowl consistent outswing with new and old ball over two innings?
    If the administrators want to talk management-speak, perhaps they can tell us:
    What playing skills are Cricket Australia seeking, exactly?
    Have those skills been identified? How were they decided upon?
    Are people with those skills being appropriately rewarded?
    If not, why not?
    What steps are Cricket Australia undertaking to give people the best possible opportunity to show/ learn/ develop the skills identified as important?

    Interesting times. I know fans need patience. Though the patience argument assumes that “she’ll be right” eventually (regardless of other events). Perhaps that’s true. But perhaps Cricket Australia has some legitimate questions to answer here.

  5. Launching a more obese and flatulent T20 season in the aftermath of the Lord’s debacle has to be lousiest timing of anything I’ve ever come across. The only thing that would rival it would be if the world hot dog eating champion announced that he would be trying to speed eat his way to a new title right slap bang in the middle of his mum’s funeral!!!!!! (Like really, it is as gaudy a stunt as I’ve come across.)

    PS Excellent work Luke. Your measured voice always cuts through.

  6. Well said Luke. T20 is all a big nothing. Its about as interesting as the wait for the arrival of the royal baby. I happened to switch on the TV the other night and was confronted by one of the throng of breathless neo-feminists waiting outside the London hospital for news on the baby. She told all the TV viewers (as part of a half hour special on something that hadn’t happened yet),

    “There is a feeling here that something is going to happen.”

    WOW! Riveting TV.

    Very T20 in my view.

  7. Skip of Skipton says:

    Contracted Test/Shield players and a separate pool of contracted T20 players is the only way to fix things. I’m sure the core audience of T20 wouldn’t care who the actual players are, as long as a lot of sixes and fours are being smashed.

    When it comes to 50 over games, then players from both pools could be chosen. A bridge between the two.

  8. Luke Reynolds says:

    Totally agree Cookie with your views on CA. Played cricket against Brydon about 15 years ago, the former Bookaar CC leg-spinning all rounder has done well for himself. Fantastic cricket writer

    Thanks Glen. Sutherland has made many errors in his time in the top job yet seems to escape a lot of criticism. Surely not for much longer.

    Thanks Sean. I don’t have an issue with the BBL per se either, just its timing and promotion. I love all cricket, from indoor, T20 all the way through to Test cricket. The BBL is a great introduction to the game for many people and I fully support its continued use for that reason. Just don’t make it the main show. Most cricket fans care the most for our Test team’s fortunes much more than any other format.

    Thanks e.regnans. I hope the questions you ask are being put to CA.

    Cheers thanks T Bone. A more obese and flatulent t20 season, brilliantly put! The hot dog eating champion no doubt works at CA. In fixturing and marketing.

    Thanks Dips. Unlike most T20 games, at least we will remember the result of the royal birth in 20 years!!

    Spot on Skip. As long a fours and sixes are being hit it doesn’t matter who is hitting them.

  9. Andrew Starkie says:

    Good on you Luke. Keep up the fight for cricket. The game in this country is under siege and being threatened by those at the top. They simply don’t care for the integrity or health of the sport.

    As Cookie (?) said, it’s one thing to admit your wrongs but you need to act on them.

    20/20 peaked in this country 4-5 years ago when the shield teams played a little, successful, popular comp. But of course CA got greedy and came up with fake teams and a fake comp expecting fans to automatically jump on board. It was shortsighted, dumb and insulting to fans.

    Sports fans aren’t dumb – they need a geographical and historical connection to become emotionally involved. Shiny colours and flame throwers won’t cut it.

    It’s a long way back for CA and cricket.

  10. Luke,
    I totally agree with you, and the comments of Coverdale, Baum and Saltau.
    There is a place for T20…but surely not at the expense of a cohesive summer fixture.
    As an MCC member, I take my kids to Stars games, but last season I reckon the crowds were down, and there were certainly many “flat” periods where the crowd just was not engaged. Despite being a traditionalist, I actually enjoyed supporting the Bushrangers in the old state T20 comp.
    The stubborn refusal of Mike McKenna to countenance a move to Geelong by the Renegades (despite the Geelong consortium’s business case) is also an interesting one. He keeps bleating about building an inter-city rivalry, but it is manufactured, and will not capture the imagination of the fans (certainly not as much as a Melb-Geel rivalry would!). Also, Cricket Victoria’s statements about not continuing to support the Renegades in the face of crippling Etihad costs beggar belief: haven’t they been listening to North, St Kilda and Bulldogs over the past ten years?
    In an article by one of the above journos, it was mentioned that India do not allow the IPL to interfere with their first class cricket (and vice versa). That is the fundamental issue here: finding a slot for the BBL which does not interfere with other domestic and international cricket.
    By the way, one of the initial aims of the BBL was to attract Indian players so that the rights and coverage would be more valuable…it is interesting that the BCCI does not allow their players to participate.

  11. Luke Reynolds says:

    Cheers Andrew. Will keep fighting the good fight. Spot on with your assessment that domestic T20 peaked 4-5 years ago. I loved following the Bushrangers in the 2-3 week state based comp, was a regular at games at the G and went to a game against Queensland at Kardinia Park where the ground was full. The 6 states all drew great crowds, just like 6 of the 8 teams do now. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    You make some great points Smokie. The Renegades in Geelong makes much more sense than struggling at Etihad. The Geelong region is actually crying out for a BBL team according to the Geelong paper. With you on the Bushrangers, would much rather a return to the state based comp with Victoria playing 3-4 games at the G and a couple at Kardinia Park under the new lights.

  12. Dave Warner made 190 odd last might in SAF. Why on earth is he still in SAF when there is a tour game in Eng starting today? That 190 could have been scored in England and set up him for Old Trafford, but as it’s been scored in different conditions who knows what value it is to him (or us.) You have to shake your head about this sort of decision making.

  13. Luke Reynolds says:

    Spot on T Bone. What will Warners no doubt excellent innings against a Kookaburra ball on a hard South African wicket mean when he comes up against Anderson, Broad and co. with the Duke on English wickets. CA are very good at making us shake our heads.

  14. Yes, i have a similar viewpoint to you Luke. A big score on S African pitches, what does it mean when your next match is on a seaming UK wicket. Considering the commencement of the match in Pretoria was a day prior to our clash at Hove, why wasn’t Waner flown back for the tour game, instead ? And don’t get me started on the 11 chosen to play Sussex!

    Glen!

  15. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Luke while I agree with you I am sure , CA answer would be we won the ashes 5 zip
    record attendances , huge interest in big bash especially tv ratings wise ( more than 10 or cricket aust or any 1 else expected ) . It gets back to scheduling trying to cram so much real cricket ( test matches ) in to such a short period of time no wonder bowlers in particular break down . Lack of proper practice games in between hurts touring teams in particular it is no wonder away sides records in test cricket is poor in general .
    There is a short term vision to make as much money as possible with a lack of long term what is best for the game approach .
    When Wattson and Warner are making 8 mill between them a year surely that tells us all there are huge problems in cricket !

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