Brydon Coverdale
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Big Bash League 2013-14

Forget Tests, BBL is where it's at

Despite the disappointment at Lord's overnight, Cricket Australia had its eyes on the main game on Monday morning: a longer BBL in the upcoming home Ashes summer

Brydon Coverdale

July 22, 2013

Comments: 183 | Text size: A | A

Brisbane Heat, champions of the Big Bash League , Perth Scorchers v Brisbane Heat, BBL final, Perth, January 19, 2013
How to lift yourself out of Ashes misery: turn your attention to the Big Bash League © Getty Images
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Four or five hours after Michael Clarke's men crumpled to their humiliating loss at Lord's, Cricket Australia sent out a press release. It contained good news, information that should warm the hearts of cricket lovers throughout the country, the fans who had stayed up over the past four nights, watching the national team's embarrassing attempts at competing with England.

"Cricket Australia's strategy for the BBL is working."

Phew.

"The league has been successful in attracting a new, diverse fan base in its first two years with its mix of big hits, great value and explosive action."

What a relief.

"More than 13% of people who attended the BBL last season were experiencing live cricket for the first time. Families also made up more than 50% of our crowds which is exactly the target audience that we want to attract to T20."

Stats! Great idea! Nobody can argue with figures!

Like, for example, the percentage of Australia's runs scored by last-wicket pairs in this Ashes series (31%). Or the number of years (28) since Australia last lost six consecutive Tests, a run of defeats they matched overnight. Or the number of Australian batsmen averaging over 40 in Tests this year, excluding those who have now retired (0).

Or the number of mentions in the CA press release of the BBL as "cricket" (1), compared to the number of times it is referred to as "entertainment" (3).

Or the number of days from the opening match of the upcoming BBL season until the final (58) compared with last summer's tournament (44). Yes, Cricket Australia said earlier this year they would tighten the BBL schedule up, but now they have decided that a two-month domestic T20 competition over the middle of summer is actually better for the game, fans, players and stakeholders.

Especially when the stakes are so significant. This summer, the BBL will be broadcast on free-to-air television for the first time, after Channel Ten forked out A$100 million for the rights over the next five years. That means that almost every day over the summer holidays, you can settle in for some cricket entertainment from the comfort of home.

If the return Ashes series in Australia from November to January becomes too depressing, you can change channels, watch Aaron Finch or Luke Pomersbach whack a hundred off 50 balls, and marvel at how much batting talent Australia possesses. Young batsmen Australia-wide will be keen to prove their credentials in the BBL, which occupies an exclusive window in the domestic calendar from December 20 until the end of the regular season matches on January 27.

At the start of February a squad will fly out for three Tests in South Africa, and what better way to audition for a role against the world's No. 1-ranked Test team than with six weeks of "big hits" and "explosive action" for Melbourne Renegades or Brisbane Heat? Or the Sydney Watchful-Leaves-Outside-Off-Stump? Sorry, Sixers.

Cricket Australia's press release on Monday morning was accompanied by a series of releases from the various BBL teams, confirming their fixtures or a list of players so far signed. It was good to see how many promising young batsmen will be honing their techniques in the BBL from mid-December until mid-February.

Kurtis Patterson, for example, has signed with Sydney Thunder. In November 2011, Patterson became the youngest batsman to score a century on debut in Australian first-class cricket when at 18 he scored 163 in a Sheffield Shield game for New South Wales. He has struggled in grade cricket since then but will learn some terrific habits during another BBL season, having been part of the Sixers squad last summer.

Let's hope others like Joe Burns, Jordan Silk, Alex Doolan, Peter Forrest and Nic Maddinson work on their batting during the eight weeks of the BBL. For two months, batsmen can put away all those dreary leaves and forward-defensive strokes that they've been using during the Sheffield Shield. How about a ramp shot instead? Joe Root showed its value to Test cricket once he reached 180 at Lord's.

In other player movement news, Shane Warne has retired, and Michael Hussey will join Sydney Thunder. His former team, Perth Scorchers, were "bitterly disappointed" to lose Hussey, a veteran of four BBL games for Scorchers. There's just no loyalty in cricket entertainment these days.

Clearly, Hussey was lured by the chance to fly in to ANZ Stadium in a specially painted Sydney Thunder helicopter, an event of appropriate dignity for one of Australia's finest cricketers of the past two decades. It was well conceived, perfectly timed, and a clear illustration that Cricket Australia's strategy for the BBL is working.

Yes, it's good to know that despite the disappointment at Lord's, Cricket Australia had its eyes on the main game on Monday morning.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by CULTnishant on (July 27, 2013, 8:28 GMT)

CA should find a way how to cop up between t20 and tests coz Test is Best it got respect honor pride.

Posted by Chris_P on (July 25, 2013, 4:21 GMT)

@Nite Kat. Let me understand your point. Ashes cricket has stunted cricket in Australia? And this, despite the fact that tests involving England result in many sell-outs & near full stadiums in both countries? So you advocate more tests against countries that don't get the support so we can view these matches in near empty stadiums? Ashes series are outdated, and this after both countries report their best attendances are for these? Interesting...... And you claim to have been watching test cricket for how long?

Posted by Tinka13 on (July 25, 2013, 1:27 GMT)

Cricket Australia, maybe we need another "Packer" to put the game back on level keel again. Maybe Palmer or Tinkler could start up a "SUPER TEST SERIES" to teach young aspiring Australia batsman how to play the proper game of cricket again? You would think that the Australian Cricket Authorities would know what they are doing, but no, they have NO IDEA!!!!

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (July 24, 2013, 11:16 GMT)

This was a good read-stitched me up really!

Posted by swarzi on (July 24, 2013, 0:42 GMT)

Come on Mr Coverdale, you very well understand cricket politics! This announcement was made to stifle the bad news about that HUGE defeat that Australia suffered in the current Ashes series. It was done to divert the attention of the nation from such abysmal news - especially sports news related to Ahes cricket! However, based on your journalistic vigilance, it has BCKFIRED on CA!

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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