The rise of T20 tournaments in a crowded cricket schedule poses difficulties for the revival of the BBL | Written by Jack Snape and Josh Nicholas
The game of cricket has been revolutionized by the Twenty20 format, making it appropriate for the sport to be running out of time.
The final match of the BBL in Australia at the SCG between the Sydney Sixers and Brisbane Heat is completely booked, however, three key players from both teams will not be present due to their participation in the UAE’s ILT20.
South Africa’s potential World Test Championship competitors will be fielding a depleted team for a red-ball series in New Zealand next month, as it coincides with their upcoming domestic T20 league, SA20.
There are those who feel that the busy schedule has negatively affected the performance of England’s cricket players. This was evident in their performance at the 2020 World Cup in India, where they placed lower than Afghanistan.
As domestic and shorter-form tournaments receive increasing investments, the calendar is becoming more compressed.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is considered the standard for player salaries and has gained attention from even the most dedicated international players, despite being launched after the Blast in England and Wales.
Mitchell Starc, a bowler from Australia, achieved a new milestone at the latest IPL auction when he received a bid of A$4.4m from the Kolkata Knight Riders. In contrast, the BBL compensates its highest-rated “Platinum” players with significantly less than what Starc may potentially earn. However, the BBL is not in competition with the IPL, as the latter has already secured its spot in the March-April timeframe of the calendar.
Unfortunately, Australia’s league is currently under pressure due to the rise of franchise tournaments worldwide. These include the UAE’s ILT20, South Africa’s SA20, and the Abu Dhabi T10, all of which are financially supported and held during the Australian summer season.
Colin Munro, captain of the Heat, along with his teammate Sam Billings and James Vince from the Sixers, who are all top players, decided to leave the Big Bash League (BBL) two weeks before the final on Wednesday to participate in the ILT20.
According to Alistair Dobson, the general manager of BBL at Cricket Australia, the league is still able to rival other leagues in spite of potentially offering lower salaries.
In summary, Dobson states that our greatest asset is the combination of highly competitive pay rates and the ultimate cricket playing experience, including large and enjoyable crowds, top-notch venues, and ideal weather during the Australian summer.
“We believe that we are in a very favorable position.”
There are doubts about his vision. A player agent, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that the BBL does not offer enough compensation to draw in top international players, which could ultimately lead to lower international broadcasting profits.
The agent states that the tournament is not highly regarded among international players and the top players will not participate unless they are compensated enough to cover the costs and time of travelling to Australia for a month of “match play” during a time they would rather rest or receive higher pay. The broadcast fees would also continue to be low unless sufficient payment is provided.
The salary for top athletes rose to $420,000 for the current season, up from $340,000 in the previous year. However, this amount was not sufficient to persuade certain players to participate, even after being selected by teams.
English batter Harry Brook, who was taken by the Melbourne Stars with the second pick in the latest draft, withdrew a month before the competition began. Last summer’s No 1 draft pick, fellow Englishman Liam Livingstone, also pulled out at the last minute.
Dobson is optimistic about the league’s progress, as this season saw a decrease in games from 61 to 44 and an increase in average attendance by over 4,000, reaching approximately 21,000 per match.
The product has received positive feedback from Channel Seven, the network’s free-to-air broadcast partner. According to Lewis Martin, the head of network sport, the schedule change has resulted in more intense matches with greater consequences.
According to Martin, the BBL brand has grown significantly and has consistently attracted a large audience during both the regular season and finals, regardless of the teams playing.
According to OzTAM VOZ, the BBL finals on Saturday and Monday almost matched the ratings of Channel Nine’s prime time tennis coverage at the Australian Open. This was aided by a significant number of viewers tuning in through Seven’s streaming platform.
However, certain television markets are experiencing more success than others. Two weeks ago, Channel Seven announced an increase in viewership in major cities, but only mentioned Brisbane (24%) and Melbourne (2%) in their statement.
Star India has obtained a seven-year contract to broadcast Australian cricket starting in 2022, with a cost of $360 million. This deal includes coverage of BBL and WBBL, but its main emphasis is on India’s upcoming tour of Australia next year, which will feature the first five-match Test series between the two countries since 1991-92.
Dobson is pleased with the placement of the BBL in the schedule and firmly believes that the condensed schedule and increase in attendance have set the stage for a new era of growth, strengthening the league’s competitiveness on an international level.
While the international market for high-end players has drawn much of the media’s attention, Dobson says the appeal of the BBL has always been a mix of top local talent, emerging stars like Jake Fraser-McGurk, and internationals.
However, Dobson has indicated that modifications are being planned to enhance the appeal of the BBL to players. After the final, the league will undergo a period of discussion regarding the revision of regulations. Extended contracts and an altered draft system will be up for consideration.
Although he has been in charge since 2019 and has seen a transformation in the sport of cricket, Dobson asserts that BBL’s position in Australian cricket has remained the same.
“The Australian summer is a time when crowds, including many children and families, come together to enjoy the Big Bash. It serves as a means of connecting with the game and attracting new fans to Australian cricket.”
This article was updated on January 24, 2024 to clarify that the Blast competition in England and Wales existed before the Indian Premier League.