Forget Tests, BBL is where it's at
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."
"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