“If we don’t innovate, we will get left behind,” stated 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 in the last couple of years.
There are three new rules. Firstly, a team will be given a bonus point for leading at the 10-over mark of an innings. Secondly, a player can be subbed into a match at the midway point of the first innings. Thirdly, the initial powerplay has been reduced from six to four overs with the batting side to decide when the second powerplay, called the "power surge", is taken after the 11th over
There have been mixed reactions from the current and past players. Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja believe it’s ludicrous while players such as Zampa and Marcus Stoinis believe it is something the game needs. Which begs the question — does the T20 format need an overhaul?
The success of the IPL in the last 13 years seems to suggest — No. The IPL is one large part of T20 cricket, but there are so many other global leagues such as the BBL that are never going to match the IPL standards or quality, hence they need innovations.
“People try to compare Big Bash to the IPL but we just don’t have the depth of talent that India have. So I think to try and stay with the curb, a little bit of change and a little bit of innovation is really good for us,” stated Zampa.
Each T20 league has its own dedicated market and it’s absolutely right to twinge some rules to ensure the game is still a viable product for its largest audience. BBL’s primary objective is to cater to the Australian audience. While Cricket Australia would love to attract a global audience, all the strategies are based upon luring the local public.
From all the feedback and all the opinions gathered at the CA headquarters office in Melbourne, it was vital that the game needed some form of innovation to ensure it still captured the audiences. On the bigger scale, the BBL is not competing against other T20 leagues in the world, it is contending with the other sports within Australia.
The dedicated window in December and January has meant the BBL doesn't have strong competition from any other sport, but the declining broadcasting numbers in the past two years are a sign that interest is diminishing. At the end of the day, the BBL is the golden nugget of Australian cricket and it holds the key for broadcasting revenue.
CA has been guilty of providing quantity over quality. The fact that Australia’s elite cricketers have rarely played in the BBL has started to irritate viewers. David Warner has not played in BBL since 2014. Mitch Starc has not played since 2015. Pat Cummins has not played in the last three years. Josh Hazlewood played in a couple of matches last year to prove his fitness, other than that he has not played since 2014.
Players such as Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis rarely play the full season as it tends to clash with the international white-ball matches in January. Taking all these factors into consideration, the standard is bound to decline. Despite these trends, CA increased the games from 42 to 56 matches. It only made the game more robotic and even dour at times.
To cure all these issues, CA recruited T20 guru Trent Woodhill to reinvigorate the format. Woodhill has coached in most of the T20 leagues around the world and the new rules this season is his brainchild. CA, along with Woodhill, has done plenty of research into data and statistics before coming up with the rules changes. But a lot of this data has been based on BBL and not T20 cricket globally.
Ten years ago, the 50-over format was the king, but new rules had to put into place to ensure it still kept the audience interested. It is the same with T20 cricket, but the difference is that the target audience varies with each league. In fact, it is great for the game that new rules can be trialled in different leagues and perhaps the ones with best results can then be implemented into the big leagues such as the IPL or even the ICC tournaments.
Big Bash needs the reinvigoration and perhaps it is a great template that will only ensure that T20 cricket remains a viable product across the world.
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