Having recently watched some of Australia’s own domestic T20 competition, the Big Bash League, it his apparent that the Aussies have a product that is exciting, innovative and more importantly, a success. English cricket needs to take note.
The Australian version is based on eight franchise teams – Adelaide Strikers, Sydney Sixers, Perth Scorchers, Sydney Thunder, Melbourne Stars, Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Renegades - that have been specifically formed for the T20 tournament and include some of the very best players both domestically and from abroad. The Big Bash attracts huge crowds over a six week period during the height of the Australian summer and coincides with the school holidays.
The entertainment for the crowds is second to none and their participation and contribution to the atmosphere is one of the main reasons why the Big Bash is proving to be such a success. Now in it’s fourth season it is bigger and better than ever.
So are England being left behind by the success of the Big Bash in Australia and the Indian Premier League in India? It appears they are.
For the good of the game the English Cricket Board must get their house in order. However, they will need to overcome some obstacles in order to do so.
English cricket, once the frontrunner in the game, is now hanging on to the coat-tails of India and Australia in many respects. They have been accused of being slow to react or change their establishment ways. However, the game is moving fast and they must move with it. England’s counties though are unlikely to look favourably on a change in format which may affect their clubs financially.
In England every county has their own T20 team, playing games at their own grounds, and generating a healthy income which can prop up their finances for the season. However, we have 18 counties which means a lot of T20 games over a longer period of time which makes the tournament drag on for far too long.
Why would the counties want to vote to scrap the current version and move to a city or regional based format? Is doing it for the good of the game in this country a good enough reason? It should be.
Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale has recently used Twitter to express his desire to see a change in how we approach the game in England.
“How good is the big bash, we have to do something with our comp otherwise we’ll get left behind. Gotta inspire the kids.”
“Franchise system would work in England. 10 cities, over 3 week period, straight after IPL. Worlds best players, bigger crowds.”
He also went further with his ideas;
“Be good if 2 big bash teams played in our comp and 2 English teams played in their comp,”
A shorter, more focussed competition would definitely appeal to players and spectators alike in England. It’s the administrators of our game that would need the most convincing though. Last season there was a slight change in the scheduling of the matches, with many games played on a Friday evening to attract better crowds to the game and on television. However, there needs to be more changes implemented.
It is ideas and innovations from current players, such as Gale, that we need to embrace and take on board otherwise we will, quite simply, be left behind, and the desire for players to play in our country, and for spectators to watch, will be diluted.
Surely we want to see players like Kevin Pietersen, Jacques Kallis and Chris Gayle gracing our domestic grounds on a regular basis?
T20 cricket, whether you love it or hate it, is here to stay so English cricket needs to embrace it and move with the times. If it means upsetting people along the way, but enhancing the sport and its appeal, then so be it.