Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the opening match of the 2020-21 Big Bash League. Hobart Hurricanes v Sydney Sixers is underway from Blundstone Arena at 7.15pm.
The first game of every new season has plenty riding on it, but this year there’s more than most. Cricket Australia and broadcast partner Channel Seven have been involved in a long-running row over the nature of their commercial arrangement, including the quality of the BBL. Both parties will hope the tournament gets off to a flying start, and sustains momentum over a marathon 59-day competition.
Criticisms of the length of the BBL grow louder each season, but they have been well and truly ignored. The product that quickly established itself as a golden goose nine years ago has since been fattened like a Muscovy duck. Now entering its tenth iteration the season dominates the summer calendar, despite a waning of the star power and knockabout charm that marked its welcome entry into living rooms.
A signal that everything might not be tickety boo with the core product arrived a few weeks ago with a press release indicating this year’s BBL would have even more bells and whistles than usual. Hands up anyone who cares about the Power Surge (AKA a movable powerplay), the X-Factor (a 12th man allowed not only to carry drinks, but possibly even sip one in very limited circumstances), and the Bash Boost (a bonus point awarded midway through the second innings, to supposedly keep interested anybody at risk of nodding-off in a one-sided contest).
It all feels like innovation for innovation sake, without being particularly radical (for example, why not go for full playing rosters who can all operate at any given point so you only ever have frontline bowlers and top-order batters). And if T20 is supposedly the sport’s gateway drug, it’s a lot more cumbersome paraphernalia in order to become hooked.
But hey, here we are, so why not get excited!