Kohli a champion,
AB is a champion,
Gayle is a champion,
Pollard is a champion,
Ashwin is a champion,
Russell is a champion,
India Cements, Srinivasan a champion
Gurunath a champion
Dhoni a champion
Sreesanth is a champion
Danny M. a champion
Barring a few minor adjustments, those were the lyrics performed live by DJ Bravo that inspired Katrina Kaif to break into an impromptu belly dance at the IPL 2016 opening ceremony. The music was loud, the lights were flashy, and the background dancers wore shoes with neon green soles that glowed in the dark. Or maybe I took too much acid that night. I don’t know. But they may have overdone it with all the purple unicorns.
It has been seven and a half long months since the conclusion of IPL 9. Admit it! You miss it so much. It’s got everything and everyone, all in one place, three and a half hours a night, for a month and a half. This blend of cricket, Bollywood, extravagance, and raw energy grips the nation year-after-year.
Perhaps you live in PG accommodation. Aunty checks on you every single night to make sure you’re not drinking, smoking, letting your cousin crash on the couch, or (god forbid) interacting with anyone of the opposite sex. But RCB is playing tonight and you’ve got a kitchen full of booze. Don’t worry! She’s not coming over tonight. Aunty would not dare miss a Kohli innings.
The vibe during the ongoing Big Bash League, now in its’ 6th season, has been much the same, albeit on a much smaller scale. For close to a month now, crowds in Australia have flocked to packed stadiums, ditching the classic baseball hat for a KFC bucket, which would do little to save your life if you were struck on the head by a maximum. But it’s part of the family-friendly experience and to their credit, the organizers of the BBL have successfully re-packaged and sold the shortest, most translatable format of the game to the masses.
They’ve even got mum excited about the double-header. She was never too keen on the cricket but even she can’t help herself when the Melbourne stars are playing at the MCG. Is she there for KP? Luke Wright? No, silly. Haven’t you heard? Meg Lanning has lit up the Rebel WBBL with a mountain of runs. They’re
calling her the female Bradman and there’s no time to explore whether or not that is a sexist statement.
But mum sticks around for the men’s game afterwards. The kids are off school and this is a good way to make sure they’re not getting into any trouble. She’s more worried about the hubby, who turns into a ripe old idiot after a few cold beers.
However, it is worth noting that despite this family-friendly experience, the quality of cricket in the BBL is no match whatsoever for the IPL. The BBL suffers from a serious lack of superstar talent. Two overseas professionals per team helps improve the quality of the league, while providing more opportunities for local talent than the IPL does, where teams can include up to four foreigners.
But the BBL’s imports – except for retirees, a few West Indians, and Kevin Pietersen – aren’t selected from the world’s best players. The international calendar does not have a window for the BBL in the same way that it makes room for the IPL. It’s hard to imagine players like Ian Bell and Stuart Broad getting IPL deals. Even the Hobart Hurricanes’ Kumar Sangakkara has been dropped in favor of Beau Webster and Ben McDermott, who’ve justified their selections with a dominant fifty and scintillating century, respectively.
Chris Lynn and the one-and-only Brendon McCullum were a dangerous, irresistible combination for the Brisbane Heat. But ‘Lynn-sanity’ was short-lived as one of the best T20 hitters in the world had to pack his bags and get ready for national duty.
The IPL may feel like too much T20 cricket being shoved down your throat, and the ‘strategic’ timeouts combined with excessive corporate sponsorship can be nauseating, but, as consumers, we are never short-changed on the quality of talent. The IPL is solid, entertaining T20 cricket, played between the worlds and India’s best players. The same cannot be said about the BBL.
The ever-expanding Big Bash has roped in women and children in a systematic fashion and at an impressive rate. The cricket alone may be less interesting but the BBL is not just selling cricket; they are selling a holistic entertainment package, designed to appeal to every member of the family. The BBL has flourished, and will continue to flourish, despite being unable to showcase the finest talent in the world.
If you love international cricket, ODI’s and the beautiful, dying breed of Test Match Cricket, the Big Bash should scare the living daylights out of you. The BBL, where cricket is watered down by virtue of the T20 format as well as the unavailability of the best players, is a successful product that helps to bankroll the domestic game in Australia.
However, instead of creating new cricket fans that could make the leap to international cricket, the BBL has created a new consumer, who prefers a cricket-related entertainment product to the game itself. If T20 leagues that
short-change the consumer on the cricket are good enough to rake in the money, you better believe that they are the future.
Watching cricket could soon resemble the game of Football, which is modeled around franchise systems and domestic structures. Why would anyone bother watching the USA’s Major League Soccer (MLS) over international football? It is obvious that the international fixture has – or at least should have – the higher standard of football. It is also quite obvious that the MLS, watered-down football that features retirees too unfit for the English Premier League, is the more marketable and profitable product.
If cricket chooses the same model for growth as football and American sports, you can say goodbye to the art of the Test Match. It will be like going to an average pub that serves average, commercialized beer. It’s made in a factory with generic, uninspiring ingredients, and it’s even watered-down to increase profit margins. But the bottle looks cool, the drink is cold, it gives you a decent buzz, and everyone else is drinking it. Folks, make no mistake; international cricket is at risk of being replaced by cheap beer.Follow @denniscricket_