The TEN Big Bash League commentary team. Not just superstars: The Big Bash offers fleeting opportunities for players like ACT Comets batsman Jono Dean. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Vote: Limited (overs) cricket
More and more our world is a struggle between the fast and the slow, the shallow and the deep.
That tension is everywhere. Fast food speeds straight from cardboard-box convenience to arteries, while the slow-food movement simmers in the background. Long-form journalism builds as a reaction to the rash of bite-size news outlets and just-add-water opinions of bloggers on the internet.
Quality crime drama rises from rare pockets in Scandinavia, Britain and the United States as the prefabricated version rolls off production lines everywhere by the dozen – cheap, cynical and unlikely to take up any space on the hard-drive of posterity.
Cricket is going the same way. Test cricket allows us time to appreciate the ebb and flow of grand strategies, while the super-quick Twenty20 version blazes away in a format designed to take up little more time in the television schedule than A Michael Buble Christmas.
Enter Channel Ten, which has seized the broadcast rights to the newly outfitted domestic 20-over format of the game.
Welcome to Ten’s KFC T20 Big Bash League: 35 matches live in prime time, more than 100 hours of super-paced leather-flying-off-the-willow action, the first time the BBL has been broadcast on free-to-air TV. It features a new commentary team, including cricket legends Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist, plus the slightly less-than-a-cricket-legend (but knowledgeable and very funny) Damien Fleming.
They are joined by smartly dressed non-cricketers Mark Howard, Mel McLaughlin and the charming Andy Maher, of the sadly defunct AFL analysis show Before the Game.
Can you see what they’ve done there? It used to be called Twenty20, but it seems that even the name of cricket’s fastest format was considered too long by some marketing genius determined to squeeze the last efficiency from a once languid recreation. Why waste time with a mouthful like ”Twenty20” when ”T20” was still available in the trademarks office? Time is money and every syllable shaved is another millisecond available to sell deep-fried chicken.
Have we put in the paperwork yet for next season’s rebrand as the KFCT20BBL? No? Come on, people, get with the program.
Test cricket holds a special place in the country’s heart and history, but it was never going to succeed where it really mattered – in the world of TV ratings.
It’s on during the day, for a start, when ratings don’t matter, and it can go on for days at a time, challenging the attention span and time commitments of the Now Generation.
There are periods in Test cricket, quite long periods, of relatively little action when the real battle is going on beneath the surface, deeper strategies invisible to the naked eye, just as the movement of a glacier is impossible to spot except when viewed from a time scale measured in centuries.
Only occasionally do we get to enjoy the thrilling climax of a run chase to determine a Test match, 15 overs to go, 70 to get, seven wickets down and stumps to be pulled in an hour. That’s why one-day cricket was invented. The shortened version of the game was an attempt to recreate the most exciting bit of a Test match for TV. But even 50 overs can have dead spots – those middle overs – and who wants anything dead in prime time unless it’s surrounded by female detectives in pencil skirts and tight blouses and male detectives with square chins and broken relationships that make them more determined than ever to crack the case?
How to reduce the dead spots and ramp up the excitement? Reduce the overs to 20 a team, add power plays and fielding restrictions, change the rules to favour the batsman, set off fireworks when a wicket falls, have a team of go-go dancers gyrate on the sideline every time someone hits a six. Excitement? Every ball becomes a defibrillator to the soul.
The impact of T20 on the game flows upwards. Just as one-day cricket sped up the scoring rate of Test cricket after it was introduced, Test cricket is about to see a record number of sixes hit in an international season. There’s good and bad in that: every cricket fan likes to see a six, but purists lament the loss of patience and the throwing away of wickets in the pursuit of entertainment value.
The other victim of the shortened game is the quality of the cricket commentary.
In radio coverage of Tests, especially, there’s a tradition of quick-witted, amusing, rambling commentary. On the ABC, the tradition started with legendary cricket broadcaster Alan McGilvray and continues today with the likes of Jim Maxwell, Drew Morphett and the idiosyncratic Kerry O’Keeffe.
McGilvray’s BBC equivalent was John Arlott. Today’s Old Country practitioners include Jonathan Agnew, Henry Blofeld and Geoffrey Boycott. India’s equivalent is the marvellous Harsha Bhogle. Brilliant raconteurs all, they are able to fill any yawning chasm between flurries of action with amusing anecdotes and insights.
Where in T20 is the room for analysis and amusing forays into tangential subjects? What need is there for analysis when the game has been boiled down to a formulaic bowl-bash-out, 120 times a side?
What’s the difference between T20 and baseball? Nothing. In high-octane Big Bash cricket played between a bunch of manufactured teams with no fan base, there’s no nuance and, paradoxically, no excitement. Good luck with those ratings.
In truth, the BBL is a corruption of the archetype, nothing more than a manufactured sport delivery system for advertisers, a flash-in-the-pan rush for those without the patience for the long game, but who want a disposable fix of the hit-and-giggle game.
Someone has to say it and it might as well be me. KFCT20BBL? It’s just not cricket.
T20 Big Bash League starts on Friday at 7.30pm on Ten.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.