Australia news May 19, 2011

Twenty20 hasn't peaked - McKenna

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Mike McKenna, project owner of the Big Bash League, insists that Twenty20's popularity has not yet peaked, despite a rising tide of evidence to the contrary.

A slackening of interest in this year's Indian Premier League, including television ratings in free-fall, suggests the format is no longer attracting new fans. So too does the fact that English cricket has been compelled to reduce the size of its sprawling domestic T20 competition for 2012, following a raft of poor attendances last summer.

Nonetheless, McKenna and Cricket Australia remain intent on pushing T20 as a bold new product during the inaugural BBL in 2011-12, as six state teams give way to eight manufactured city-based franchises sporting names such as the Sixers, the Thunder, the Renegades and the Scorchers. Seeking an additional revenue stream to ultimately rival that provided by the national team, CA and the states will suffer a significant hit if the T20 league does not capture the public mood.

McKenna is not shy about the fact the tournament has been closely modelled on the IPL experience, even though the differences between cricket's place in Australia and India are stark.

"I think we're a long way from the peak of this sort of competition around the world," McKenna said. "There are a lot of people still feeling the game out, what's the right way to play it, what's the right way to promote it, where to play games, what's the right number of teams.

"England had 18 teams playing 151 games, right at the back-end of the World Cup soccer, which was the primary interest for English fans. So who knows what a different structure will do for them, but there's no doubt there's an appetite for cricket, and particularly among young people and women the appetite for Twenty20 cricket is huge.

"So you put the right product on and promote it the right way, it'll be successful. But we want to make sure that other forms of the game have a place in that too. So domestic T20, international one-day cricket and Test cricket are the priorities for Australia, those three forms of the game ahead of everything else."

The simultaneous creation of eight new teams with no strong regional ties means the early seasons of the BBL will have to ride on waves of interest in the format itself and the players who take part. However the probable lack of many Australian and overseas stars, with the exception of West Indians such as Chris Gayle, may leave the teams without much of an initial selling point at all. McKenna argued the landscape allowed for new players to emerge as purely T20 identities, with internationals viewed merely as a bonus.

"One of the challenges we have is we've got a lot of big name players in Australia, but we really want to build another level of player that has the chance to engage with the public," he said. "At the moment we have 25 CA-contracted players, who are more often than not playing or on tour. What we want to introduce is another level of player who can really excite the fans.

"We've seen that with David Warner, who's not a Test player or a one-day player on a regular basis but can excite the fans. So if we can take those guys who are available into schools, shopping centres and where kids are, to clinics, it's a chance for us to really connect with the fans where we can't at the moment. The big-name players would be the icing on the cake for us."

Oddly given that each team has so far been counselled against allying itself too closely to a particular region or state - to the point that clubs were forbidden from using state colours - McKenna said each team had to mean something to its city in order to win genuine supporters and develop a club mentality.

"If you look at every club around Australia who are successful, they stand for something," he said. "Collingwood and Essendon football clubs, Wests Tigers, South Sydney, they've all got something that really appeals to their fanbase. For us that's the biggest thing we've got to create that meaningful connection with fans, and that's something we've been working on with all the teams for the past two months, what the team stands for."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • KingofRedLions on May 20, 2011, 9:43 GMT

    CA continues to stick its fingers in its ears. Lalalala.

  • Gizza on May 20, 2011, 8:51 GMT

    @Cpt Meanster, your post is suspicious because only Aussies regularly use the word "Pom". Americans don't use that word. Anyway, you sound like you want every aspect of British culture to die. Ok truth be told British influence over the world is declining (generally and in cricket). But American isn't too flash either. Judging from your political remarks and predictions, everyone in the future will be playing Judo/Martial Arts (Chinese sport) and Kabaddi (Indian/Subcontinental) instead of cricket, soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, basketball (All British/American sports).

  • Biggus on May 20, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    Indeed, our friend seems to have an almost pathological hatred of the English, and by extension everybody who likes test cricket, so we're all guilty. Who would have known. Lucky he dropped in to set us on the straight and narrow. Saved us from a life of sin, he did. Maybe his puppy was run over by a busload of test cricketers.

  • Philvdk on May 20, 2011, 6:23 GMT

    Cpt.Meanster is comparing baseball to T20?? You're kidding aren't you? The same as you yanks say test cricket is boring, we aussies have the same opinion about baseball. Now there is a dead boring game if ever there was one. I remember going to a game in the states once. I think they hit the ball about 5 times and scored about 2 runs. Only further reinforced my low opinion of the game. Mate, why would you say you can't wait for test cricket to die? You don't have to watch it. Stick to your T20 short attention span game and leave the true game of cricket to the real fans. I don't hope baseball dies. I just never watch the crap.

  • dummy4fb on May 20, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    Cpt. Meanster, that's pathetic and insulting to all the people who have played the game and allowed it to survive up until the point Twenty/20 could exist. Without test cricket, none of this would be possible, and teste between countries is more enthralling than the 'Sydney Sixers' vs the 'Hobart Heroes' or whatever they're calling them. The states had fan bases and used Twenty/20 for what it was, cheap entertainment and a gateway into the proper forms of the game.

    Test cricket, hence the name, is the ultimate test and is still the format everyone wishes to succeed in. Saying that you dislike test cricket because it is British and then praising Twenty/20 cricket (which was also created in Britain) is simply stupid and arrogant. The format is a joke, the administration is a joke and world cricket is dying thanks to this cheap, Americanised version of our once great sport.

    Bravo CA, for ruining cricket, one stupid decision at a time.

  • _Australian_ on May 20, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    @cpt. Meanster. You say you dislike anything "British". Well T20 was invented in England buddy so you might want to stick to those terrible American sports.

  • smudgeon on May 20, 2011, 2:22 GMT

    I can't figure out if Cpt.Meanster is being sarcastic, genuine or just trolling. Whatever they're up to, the comment is worth a chuckle.

  • bobagorof on May 20, 2011, 2:02 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster - I don't know why you thought it would be a good idea to come to a cricket forum and rubbish the game. If you like baseball, that's fine - go watch baseball. If you like the Twenty20 format, watch Twenty20. There's no need to gleefully wait for the death of a game (Test cricket) you don't watch, just because you don't like it (and hence don't watch it). Personally I don't like watching Twenty20 and it seems from the other comments that Australians as a whole aren't going to take to this league the way they did to World Series Cricket 40 years ago. If Cricket Australia is banking on the new league bringing in the dollars then they will find themselves in a pretty dire financial situation.

  • threeheadedmonkey on May 20, 2011, 0:28 GMT

    Terrible, terrible, terrible idea. Don't they realize when the whole current cricketing fanbase is pointing out how bad an idea this is that maybe they should leave things how they are? The IPL is already dropping in popularity (and to be honest most Australians i know/read things from online all hate the IPL) so why are we moving to this model? Stadiums aren't even filled for the current t20 comp so why would they suddenly be filled for a comp that doesn't include the Australian team players and is made up of teams noone has herd of and noone has any loyalty to. Total utter rubbish, i don't expect this to last long once the indian money bringers realize it isn't profitable here.

  • blackmagic123 on May 19, 2011, 23:17 GMT

    the end of cricket as much as i hate to say it

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