And so, at long last, the tenth instalment of the Big Bash League has drawn to a close, with the Sydney Sixers rolling over the Perth Scorchers in the grand final. The two most successful clubs of the competition’s first decade competing in the grand final was a fitting swansong to those ten years of Big Bash cricket. From a small tournament run during the school holidays, the T20 domestic competition has come Cricket Australia’s golden goose, bringing new fans to the game, putting bums on seats and completely dominating Australia’s sporting landscape during the Christmas holiday period. Or, at least, it was. It was there because nothing else was on, but with CA milking the tournament all the way into February over the last few years, that genuine interest has waned. The general consensus for many cricket fans is that while they were glued to the TV for every ball of the enthralling India and Australia series, they would have been lucky to watch one or two Big Bash games in their entirety – and that tells you all you need to know. Of course, some just don’t find T20 cricket as interesting as the battle of the five-day arena, but at the beginning of the Big Bash, many who said they weren’t a fan of the shortest format would watch every game. Now, that’s not to say people aren’t tuning in. Overall TV ratings were up 1.4 per cent this season, but when you consider there were no crowds, and COVID restrictions hit various parts of the season around the country – leaving people locked up indoors without a whole lot else to do – that number is more for show than a good result. CA need to realise the BBL’s true advantage was a short season where fans piled into grounds because they only got a few chances per season to see teams and star players go around, and watched on TV because it didn’t feel like the season was dragging on forever and a day. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images) Crowds obviously weren’t a factor this year, but in the season prior, with seven home games, punters would generally pick and choose rather than go to every single one. The BBL doesn’t have tribalism and history attached to it, and therefore, fans are far more likely to be casual followers of their club or the competition in general than passionate followers, as you would find in Australia’s football codes during winter. That being said, cutting the number of games per team, and in total, is imperative, while adding another two teams with scope to go for another four would give the BBL and CA scope to play more double-headers and compact the season even further, with teams able to rest while others are playing. This would allow teams to first up play nine, and then up to 11 games without needing a full home-and-away season, which then detracts from fans going to all games like they may have at the start of the concept. And while some may question the talent available to field more teams, the BBL did a far better job of bringing in international imports this season and would do even more so if the season was again shortened. Andre Fletcher (Photo by Graham Denholm – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images) Not only that, but it would actually improve the talent level across the board and the standard of the Australian team in all formats of the game, given a more balanced, less BBL-heavy summer. And, just quietly, Sheffield Shield cricket taking a prominent step into the limelight is exactly what Australia need right now. But back to the BBL and there are plenty of options to expand. Canberra is the most obvious option, a city without a local team (outside of basketball) during the summer. Manuka Oval has been filled for Sydney Thunder games before and the ACT, you would assume, would get behind their own BBL team like they do with the Canberra Raiders and Brumbies. Not only that, but it would deliver a real home-game feel when they did host teams in Canberra. Geelong is probably the other spot which gets a run in the first round of expansion, with an excellent stadium and fans in that region of the world wanting something to cheer that isn’t a Melbourne team wearing red or green. Looking beyond the first round of expansion and it would be on CA to find areas that would get behind their own team. Give regions a run who don’t have franchises in national competitions, areas that would rally behind their own side. While the Gold Coast is a sporting graveyard, CA could conceivably try that option, but a team in Townsville or Cairns, Coffs Harbour, or even Launceston – to create the Hobart-Launceston rivalry – would work well. The only other area worth mentioning is Darwin and the Northern Territory, given they have no teams in national competitions, but trying to play cricket there during the December and January wet season would be foolish, so it’s probably off the table. Regardless, the other options all have facilities ready to go and people who would support a local team. It’s time for Cricket Australia to reinvigorate the Big Bash, fix the summer of cricket, and bring new areas of the country into the national cricketing limelight.
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