A night at the cricket … or was it? My first BBL experience

I have been a fan of cricket for as long I can remember and have always watched every possible game I could. I have also been in a privileged position to watch more games than I can count live at the home of the game for me: the Gabba. Those facts alone probably make it a bit out of character that I had not set foot inside the Gabba for a Big Bash League fixture until last night. Indeed last night I attended my first Twenty20 game live since the very first one at the Gabba a few moons ago.

The fact is that I have never really warmed to the shortened form of the game and thus, I concede, have probably been a bit dismissive of it. Aside from watching it on TV, because I will watch any sport on TV, and aside from following the Brisbane Heat (the Queensland team after all) I have not really gotten into.

Last night, I have to confess, did little to increase my warmth for the concept. I know I will be considered to be an “old man” here but I did not like the “extras” that seemingly form part of the performance that is a BBL game. I did not like the “dance cam” or the “kiss cam”. I did not like ground announcer shouting at me between every ball and I found the “Brisbane Heat dancers” nearly as bad as the Queensland Reds before game entertainment.

All that said, there was still a cricket game on and I am more than happy to say that the cricket was pretty good. Fast bowlers charging in, another mystery spinner from the sub-continent and a viewing of some of the young batsmen who might find themselves on a plane to England were all pleasing to the cricket purest in me.

So to recap: I enjoyed the game but hated the performance that was BBL. Why stop there though? With me was a very good mate and his son (aged 8) neither of whom had watched a game of cricket live before much less picked up a bat. This is one of the target markets of the BBL, introducing new fans to the game, is it not? Surely these guys had a great time?

During the game it was clear to me that the only things that were keeping the interest of the 8 year old were the “extras” in the performance. He was enamoured with the hovercraft at half time, he liked the music (I weep for the children of today’s devotion to the cults that are Gangnam Style and One Direction) and thought it was pretty cool that there were police officers in the crowd. When it came to the cricket he was, to quote him, “bored and hungry” and if I heard the question “how long to go?” once I heard it 200 times.

In the car on the way home I steered the discussion around to how my mate enjoyed the game. His feedback was that whilst he would have preferred a comfier seat and a bit less noise he was pretty happy with the night. However, he also said it was unlikely that he would be back given the 8 year olds lack of interest in the game. Indeed when pressed further by me, the 8 year old when asked by me “do you want to play cricket now?” was fairly resounding in his negativity: well as much as an 8 year old could be.

All of this raises an interesting point for me: if BBL is designed to get people into the game of cricket is the glitz of the “performance” overshadowing the cricket to the extent that it is not succeeding in that goal. I wonder: how many people who are introduced to cricket through the BBL remain fans of the game? And how many of those people are also going to attend a test match or ODI fixture? These are questions that Cricket Australia will need to consider (if they are not already).

One final comment: the price of tickets of $30 for an adult and $10 for a child is very good and clearly is a selling point. Makes me wonder though: should that also not be the pricing for a ticket to test match cricket? I sat in the same class of seats for the test match this year and paid $68.50 for the same seat. The amenities are the same, the cost of food and drink is the same and the staffing is the same (save it is a longer day). Surely the way to get more people in the test match gates is to lower the price? Maybe that is too obvious.

Anyway, I am not sure if I will be back to watch the third instalment of the Big Bash League next year. I still can’t warm to the game if I am honest and watching the comfort of my lounge without a ground announcer shouting at me between balls certainly has some merit right now.