Australia is one of the first countries to venture into the ‘Big Brother’ concept, which now has taken the world by storm, especially Indian households have their eyes turned to their television sets to see their favourite stars tear each other up. You know what else is similar? IPL and the BBL!
The surreality that surrounded Hardik Pandya’s match-winning innings or Thangarasu Natarajan’s spectacular spell to blow Australia apart was what immemorially defined the second T20I in Sydney. Australia, headed by one of their experienced stars Matthew Wade, who set his foot as the new captain of the national side, could only chew the ‘sorry’ game at the end of the game while admitting that Hardik’s batting blew the game away.
"It's good for the Australian public to see someone at the top of his game,” uttered Marcus Stoinis in awe of Hardik’s knock in front of a packed Sydney crowd, especially in a world that is haunted by COVID. International cricket was truly back but what also made a return in equal measures was Australia’s pathetic bowling depth present in the shorter formats. A bowling attack that they deemed was enough to do the job on that night had just been ripped into irredeemable pieces and the fingers already have pointed towards Australia’s T20 tournament - the Big Bash League.
With the news of Johan Botha being roped as a last-minute replacement and Tom Curran pulling himself out of the tournament, it only goes on to show the Big Bash setup has made it highly problematic for themselves. The aim of the tournament, in a general sense perhaps, is and was always to improve the quality of cricket in the country, so is the aim of Major League Soccer when it started. But the difference between them is the ability to rope in bigger names.
Since its inception, the MLS has already roped in stars such as Steven Gerrard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela but the Big Bash since its inception has only managed to change more rules than roping in international stars of the highest quality, something that has not only hindered the tournament’s viewership and ratings but also endangered the new set of Australian players who will emerge out of the tournament.
Daniel Sams, who looked like he was about to pick a wicket every third delivery in the BBL last season, was torn apart not just on Sunday but also in the chances that he got in the IPL, which only goes on to show how the tournament has excelled and thrived in mediocrity. That mediocrity, in turn, has started to change the outlook of not only the league but in equal measures of the Australian cricket team, who in the absence of a few names already start second foot to the opposition.
This mediocrity has already excelled in the batting department with the umpteen number of opportunities and chances being dished out to D’Arcy Short, who has always come short of the ‘good’ knock. The entire setup consisted of all the Big Bash products who thrived in such conditions but when it came to stepping up their game, they looked like butternut quashed - needing the help of the international stars to get a good score. Given that Short was Australia’s best option, in the talent pool that consisted of Chris Lynn, McDermott and the others, it all points to how the BBL has an endearing problem and a split-like personality.
It has extended to the batsmen in the past but with the likes of David Warner and Aaron Finch more or less spearheading the team from time to time, the frailties have never been exposed at the level of the bowlers. And that has in some way or the other forced Cricket Australia to allow the franchises to field an additional overseas player - from two to three, falling one short of the IPL measures with four overseas players. It is pertinent to argue that India as a cricketing country has unearthed an ocean-full of talent but at the same time, it has also focused on the quality of cricket on offer without offering any sort of gimmicks.
No two foreigners, no X-factor player and more importantly more entertainment from a pure cricketing perspective. Perhaps it is a no-brainer that Cricket Australia will have to implement a similar path in the future, but with the likes of Lanka Premier League and all emerging, they should start sooner than later to salvage some pride. LPL already has a plethora of big names ready to participate in the league and mind you, it’s still in its nascent stage. Then you have a well-established tournament elsewhere, which still struggles to rope in the big names.
Big names don’t often equal good quality but allowing more overseas players the opportunity to thrive and, in turn, challenge the pool of talent significantly improves the quality of cricket on offer. Same names - Ben Dunk, Chris Lynn and co - have left a mark in the Pakistan Super League but more importantly, the tournament has roped in quality players elsewhere to make the tournament extremely competitive, which has, in turn, allowed them to build a team for the future. But the BBL is a big oops in those terms, surviving barely on the back of the reputation of the Australian board.
Allowing an extra overseas player to feature in the playing XI is a good move but it counts for nothing when the overseas talent pool comprises of Tom Curran, Morne Morkel, Zahir Khan, Dan Lawrence and Will Jacks. The Big Bash League, at this point, very badly more than marketing gimmicks, needs the product to thrive and until the product doesn’t thrive, it is never going to sell - as simple as that. What’s more astonishing is that the Australian board has seen the rise of the IPL and yet have struggled to follow it’s foot-trails in setting up a tournament that not just elevates the format and the players but also builds an ecosystem which would help the country in producing a flowing ocean full of talented players.
Australia’s thrashing loss against India should just be a starting point, the meltdown might hit really quickly. Three is a good number but four and more importantly, better players is a better start - just like how they got in Rashid Khan, Eoin Morgan, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo and a plethora of names in the past. If the Australian crowd are going to be just waiting to fantasize about a Hardik Pandya-like finish, they need the association to start getting their act together!