The Ashes have been won but the party has just begun and the Colonel’s taking things up a notch. The genetic mutation of L. Ron Hubbard and Father Christmas is finger lickin everywhere. Like a paranoid dictator his head is omnipresent – on the boundary, the players’ sleeves, in the stands, stencilled into the grass and crammed into the ad breaks. Last night he even appeared in my sleep hitting sixes over the short boundaries at the MCG.
The Big Bash League equals big business. A $100 million broadcast deal with free-to-air network Channel 10, cameras everywhere, 33 in total, capturing every angle, because you can’t appreciate the nuances of the game without a close up of an umpire’s hairy arm.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Power plays, viewer polls, flashing stumps, unorthodox shot-making, relentless cross promotion, cheerleaders, fist-pumping music and bucketheads – there are more gimmicks on display here than in a two dollar joke shop. Even the players’ uniforms have been designed by preschoolers let loose with their favourite fluorescent crayons. All that’s missing is an inflatable bouncy castle at long on in the shape of a giant drumstick. Don’t. Please don’t.
All the while the commentators are telling us not to take our eyes off the screen, the match is evenly poised, the game’s on a knife-edge. Inflections rising. Don’t go anywhere.
Well I couldn’t take my eyes off the KFC Million Dollar Six. A celebrity positioned on a square platform in the crowd waiting to catch a six to win big bucks for a viewer. A family with buckets on their heads waiting for the big moment that ultimately doesn’t come. Oddly compelling in a train wreck kind of way. Dipper was the opening night act while in Sydney it was someone doing pushups called Shannon. This whole sideshow makes for buttock-clenching viewing. Next week Ita Buttrose gets her turn.
This is a competition built on razzamatazz and celebrity. Purists won’t watch it but it’s not for them. The crowd is made up of excited children, families and groups in fancy dress. This game is all about the big hitting, big names, much-loved old names and fast scoring. Throw in some spectacular fielding and you have the sporting equivalent of popcorn. Strip away the rampant commercialisation and it’s quite entertaining. It might even encourage kids to pick up a bat and head to the park. That can’t be a bad thing. There is certainly enough skill on display to inspire.
For the record the Stars scored a team-record 7 for 208 to easily beat the Renegades, Thunder continued its miserable run despite a terrific 116-run opening stand by David Warner and Usman Khawaja. New skipper Michael Hussey has some work to do. Flashy left-hander Nic Maddinson played a standout innings and will be one to keep an eye on over the summer. In Brisbane, a pulverising 19th over set up the Heat’s exciting win over the Scorchers. While in Hobart the Strikers and Hurricanes split the points after the game was called off because of rain.
One thing I’ve noticed over the opening four games is, importantly, the players seem to care, and the audience is definitely having a good time. These are the perfect ingredients for a successful summer.