“If we don’t innovate, we’ll be left behind,” said Adam Zampa, when asked about the new rules that will be introduced for the 10th edition of the Big Bash League. The decision comes on the back of declining TV ratings and crowds for the BBL over the past two years.
There is three new rules. First, a team will receive a bonus point for leading to the 10 mark on a set. Second, a player can be placed in a match midway through the first innings. Third, the initial power play has been reduced six to four times with the batting side to decide when the second power play, called “surge”, is taken after the 11th.
Reactions from current and past players have been mixed. Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja think it’s ridiculous while players like Zampa and Marcus Stoinis think it’s something the game needs. Which begs the question – does the T20 format need an overhaul?
The success of IPL over the past 13 years seems to suggest – No. IPL is a big part of T20 cricket, but there are so many other world leagues like BBL that will never match the standards or quality of IPL, so they need innovation.
“People try to compare Big Bash to IPL, but we just don’t have the talent of India. So I think trying to stay with the curb, a little bit of change and a little bit of innovation is really good for us, “Zampa said.
Each T20 league has its own dedicated marketplace and it is absolutely right to change some rules to ensure that the game remains a viable product for its larger audience. BBL’s main objective is to respond to the Australian public. While Cricket Australia would like to attract a global audience, all strategies are based on attracting local audiences.
From all the comments and opinions gathered at CA’s headquarters in Melbourne, it was vital that the game needed some form of innovation to ensure it still captured audiences. On a larger scale, the BBL does not compete against other T20 leagues in the world, it does compete with other sports in Australia.
The dedicated window in December and January has meant that the BBL does not have strong competition from other sports, but the drop in number of broadcasts over the past two years is a sign that interest is waning. Ultimately, the BBL is the gold nugget of Australian cricket and holds the key to broadcast revenue.
CA is guilty of providing quantity rather than quality. The fact that Australia’s elite cricketers rarely played in the BBL began to irritate viewers. David Warner hasn’t played in BBL since 2014. Mitch Starc hasn’t played since 2015. Pat Cummins hasn’t played for the past three years. Josh Hazlewood played a few games last year to prove his fitness, other than that he hasn’t played since 2014.
Players such as Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis rarely play all season as they tend to come up against international white ball games in January. Taking all these factors into account, the standard is set to decline. Despite these trends, CA increased the number of games from 42 to 56 games. It only made the game more robotic and even dark at times.
To address all of these issues, CA enlisted T20 guru Trent Woodhill to re-energize the format. Woodhill has coached in most T20 leagues around the world and this season’s new rules are his idea. CA, along with Woodhill, did a lot of data and statistics research before proposing the rule changes. But a lot of this data is based on BBL and not T20 cricket around the world.
Ten years ago, the 50-over format was king, but new rules had to be put in place to ensure that it still maintained the public interest. It’s the same with T20 cricket, but the difference is that the target audience varies with each league. In fact, it’s great for the game that new rules can be tested in different leagues and maybe the ones with the best results can then be implemented in the big leagues like IPL or even ICC tournaments.
Big Bash needs the revitalization and perhaps it is a great model that will only ensure that T20 cricket remains a viable product across the world.