BBL 09: The not-quite-so-Big Bash League
Cricket Australia have launched their new-look format for BBL 09. Fans in Australia will be pleased to see that the season has been reduced to 42 days.
A brand-new finals format, designed to rewards teams who finish higher in the table, will bring the competition to a close. The domestic T20 competition has gained extra prominence due to Australia travelling to India, for a three-match ODI series, which left fans at home short on cricket during their summer.
The 2019-20 schedule has been reduced due to fan feedback. Many found that BBL 08 went on for far too long - longer than Dennis Lillee’s run-up - so CA have responded accordingly. BBL 08 lasted for 54 days, which was longer than the time in office of four Australian prime ministers, so tighter scheduling has been implemented to prevent fan apathy.
To remove 12 days from the schedule, BBL 09 will see more game days (15) with more than one match. The now traditional matches on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve will take place whilst the temptation for Christmas Day cricket has been denied for now.
It’s not on the table at the moment but CA are not taking it away either. It feels like it must only be a matter of time before it is at least trialed in the BBL.
CA have always been keen on revamping the finals format and they have finally done so for BBL 09. The top five teams in the table will contest the finals over two weekends.
Inspired by the marketing overdrive initiated by the ECB over The Hundred, each match has been given its own name. “The Eliminator”, “The Qualifier”, “The Knockout”, “The Challenger” and “The Final” sound like they were rejected soubriquets from 1990s TV show Gladiator rather than games of cricket.
However, they are designed to give the top two placed teams more of a chance of winning the title. Over the last eight years, the team finishing first in the table has lost in the semi-finals on six occasions. CA are keen to change this.
Moreover, India’s defeat in this year’s Cricket World Cup led to similar questions being asked about the ‘fairness’ of losing a semi-final after topping the group stage. One failing of the new format has already been flagged. The fifth-place team could win the title but would need to win four away finals in the space of ten days.
BBL 09 runs from December 17th to February 8th with matches to be held at the traditional Australian cricket venues as well as Alice Springs, Geelong and the Gold Coast. Everyone agrees that a shorter tournament in the best option.
However, CA won’t be losing out as the new finals format has added an extra two games to the season. More cricket in less time – perhaps CA will look to reduce the number of overs in the future? I wonder if that idea would work...