T20 will never take off they said. T20 isn’t cricket they said. T20 will mean the death of Test cricket they said.
I think they were wrong. From where I stood today I can honestly say that the future of cricket in Australia has never looked better and for me, this future is something which is a joy to be part of.
For a sport that has grappled with the latest generation of kids turning away from the sport and a reputation of being a sport which was full of white, crusty 40 year old men, the Big Bash League has turned this on its head and we are now beginning to see a change.
Today was Sydney Thunder Fan Day. Thousands of people assembled to meet their heroes in green and to take part in a fun-filled family day out.
There’s absolutely no doubt that T20 cricket is a different brand of cricket. It doesn’t quite have the strategy or the beauty that Test cricket has. Test cricket is often slow and gentle. It’s the sport that I watch lounging on my couch in the summer. It’s the sport that lets me have a little nap in the afternoon and not miss too much.
The BBL is almost the total opposite. It’s a lot faster and more about fast wickets and big hits. There’s absolutely no time for a nap – you blink and you miss it. The BBL is very much an entertainment concept and is just as much about the spectacle than about what is going on on the field.
But what’s wrong with that.
Whilst cricket traditionalists might not ever completely accept the concept, is it really all about them?
I don’t think so – for me it’s about creating another avenue for people to engage in sport. As far as I’m concerned, anything that encourages kids to get involved in sport in whatever capacity is something which should be celebrated and encouraged. And if it helps us to create the next Elyse Perry or Mike Hussey, then we must be doing something right.
Today, I saw kids running up to their favourite cricket players asking for autographs. Mike Hussey, Pat Cummins, Stafanie Taylor and Watto were in huge demand. Kids with bats way too big for them were struggling to hold them up to their favourite players. The Thunder players took part in skill sessions and games. It was fan engagement in its purest and most delightful form.
But there was something even more exciting. With the women’s Big Bash League in its first year, we can now honestly say with hand on heart, that pathways are being created for young girls who love cricket.
Today not only were boys taking wickets at the Thunder Bus and lining up to high-five Usman Khawaja, but so were little girls. And when Alex Blackwell took the stage as the first captain of the Sydney Thunder Women’s team, she did so to a roar of applause.
The WBBL is only going to get bigger. Today, kids were lining up to meet their male and female sporting heroes. For little girls in particular, this is extremely powerful. It says that there is a place for them in the cricket family. It tells them to dream big and that there is a place for them in one of the most elite competitions in the world. Little girls look ahead and see women like Elyse Perry, Alex Blackwell, Lauren Cheatle and Stafanie Taylor leading the way.
So instead of focusing on what the BBL is not (it’s not Test cricket), let’s focus on what it is and that is another mechanism to engage the next generation of young cricketers.
I’m sure I saw some future stars out in action today.
A big well done to the Sydney Thunder on a tremendous day. It was so special to see the players engaging with their youngest and most bright-eyed fans… and that they even had time to have a photo with a fan that might not have been so young anymore (me).
The countdown to the men’s first game is now on. Hopefully they do to the Sixers what the women did 2 weeks ago (smash them).
Ladies who Legspin xxx