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Trading States for Cities. The Shape of Domestic Cricket

With the Big Bash League seven season in, an average attendance of over 26,000 (putting this in perspective the afl is 34,000, so 26,000 pretty good). There is another TV rights deal around the corner which is expected to at least double in price for the BBL. You would think domestic cricket is in a really good condition. On the other hand you have Shield Cricket and the domestic one day comp. Shield Cricket has attendances in the hundreds (the low hundreds at that). The domestic one dayers are pigeonholed to be played over a small period at the start of the summer. Why you ask, the only reason I can think is to save traveling and accommodation costs. It’s one extreme to the other. Are Cricket Australia worried, not at all. Should they be, yes.

It’s hard to argue with some of the attendance figures being at an all time high, but if Cricket Australia was serious about keeping the test side the pinnacle of the sport, they should be looking at changes. We are yet to see the effects of a generation that has grown up on T20 cricket, A generation that doesn’t defend, doesnt strive to grind out an innings, doesn’t dream of going through adversity and scoring a match winning 100 off 300 hard fought deliveries. Instead we will have kids growing up wanting to scoop 150 kmph full balls over the keeper, Reverse sweeping the spinner over short third man or causing a bit of their own “Lynnsanity” of their own. You can’t really blame them really, to be honest if I was young I would want to follow the same path. They see their heros playing the game this way, being applauded for it, being idolised for it. Only watching cricket which does not include defensive strokes and more problematic, doesn’t want you to play a defensive stroke. T20 only wants you playing aggressive, expansive and creative strokes. It’s the only domestic games they go to. There is music, fireworks, fun and atmosphere. When they get older their is the allure of million dollar IPL contracts. What’s not to love. In essence it is everything the shield cricket is not.

Test cricket has been in a global decline for a while. With only a handful of series getting crowds and attention. In the words of a not so good American politician, let’s “Make the Test Cricket Great Again”. How do we do that you ask, well I have some radical ideas which might help both the domestic long form of the game and international.

T20: handle with domestic care

Let’s make T20 for domestic use only. It’s a great way to get young kids into the game, it’s a great pathway. If we truly want the long form of the game to be the pinnacle, it’s a great idea to keep players wanting to play the long form of the game at an international level. Let’s face it. With all the domestic competitions, International schedules, players could use an international format being dropped. You might as well drop the one which makes the most money at a domestic level.

No one watches state cricket anymore

Unfortunately the days of state v state are numbered. Why not make all formats of cricket go down the City/Franchise model. This means the stars get their own Shield and One day side, so do the Renegades, Strikers, Scorchers etc. Cricket Australia tell us that 30% of people going to the Big Bash are new viewers. What do they do after the series, they probably have no idea that those same players play for specific state sides. A new Hobart fan, would they know to watch out for Darcy Short playing for WA? Probably not. Why not use all that exposure, advertising, reach and excitement generated before during and after the big bash, for the other state formats. It means each franchise will be able to keep the players they want together, offer longer contracts and have more visibility throughout the summer without butchering the other competitions.

Get the schedule right

For too long now the international and domestic schedules seem to be at odds. Lets get them correct. Let’s start the summer with both shield and one day domestic games, While the international test series is on, it’s a perfect time to run the completion of the one day comp (just in time for the one day series), plus running rounds of shield games in the big test breaks. In Between the international One Day series games let’s kick off the big bash. Remember, no more international T20’s. This frees up some time where we can just run the domestic Big bash comp. We can then run the culmination of the shield with the end of the big bash comp. Before ending with just the Shield. That’s just an example, but surely we can do better than what we have at the moment. We shove all the one dayer at the start of our summer (well before summer actually). This means no one day cricket is played for months, then we have to play internationals. While the test series is on, the only cricket played is T20’s. This means if you are trying to get in the test side but are not a T20 play, you really have no chance. It’s crazy.

Basically, summing it all up

  • Give all the Big Bash franchises their own Shield and One day sides
  • Get rid of Internationally T20’s
  • Fix the summer schedule

Let me know what you think, it’s a little drastice, a little different but I see a good balance of domestic happiness and international growth.

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