It had everything people look forward to in a one-day game – big hits, big centuries and a big chase. Two quality sides going head to head, the world champions playing the semifinalists --- in the opening match of the series, with the visiting team setting up a challenging target and the hosts digging deep to come out on top, the fans could not have asked for anything more.
Never mind the attraction of Indian rockstar cricketers Virat and Rohit taking on the Australia bowlers in their backyard, there is a serious threat of the Big Bash reducing the limited overs series to a sideshow.
Cricket Australia are looking to compensate their sponsors for the low interest in the damp squib of a Test series against West Indies. However, it is their Twenty20 league which people are excited about at the moment in Australia.
All the home matches of Perth Scorchers, the team based at WACA’s 20,000-seater stadium, are sold out. For Tuesday’s one-day game, after a lukewarm turnout in the first half, around 14,000 seats finally filled up by afternoon when the home team were batting. The roaring success of the 2015 World Cup is fading from people’s memory.
Asked around if this was good attendance, ‘this is nothing’ came the response from a WACA regular, comparing it to the crowds that have been coming for the league.
It has started a debate on T20 cricket eating into one-day cricket in the long run. One of the main reasons given for all roads not leading to WACA on Tuesday is that it’s a working day.
However, the primary reason for T20 becoming popular, says former Australia player Mike Veletta: “Big Bash has great support; it’s riding a bit of a wave at the moment.”
Valetta made a name for himself in one-day cricket when he played a match-changing cameo (31-ball 45) in the 1987 World Cup final against England at the Eden Gardens.
Veletta, now a director on the WACA cricket board, told HT: “It’s promoting the game to families and children, and it’s over in three hours, which is the key as in contemporary living people are time poor. No longer can they take a day off for cricket.”
It’s led to concerns that other formats are losing out. “We have only one competition for one-day cricket, and it has been overshadowed by the Big Bash,” he added.
While Big Bash is a travelling circus with a home-and-away format, the one-day competition is organised at one venue. “The Matador Cup, the national one-day competition, goes on for about a month in October. Sheffield Shield is our primary tournament, and we have to ensure it (Big Bash) doesn’t impact on that.”
Scorchers are the Chennai Super Kings of the Big Bash, making the final of the last four editions, winning two. Not only is WACA sold out for all of Scorchers’ games, there is talk of having a second team from the city. A fortnight ago, for the Melbourne derby at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the attendance record for a domestic game was broken when over 80,000 turned up for the Big Bash tie.
“The Big Bash doesn’t affect your daily routine. And, it is fun because it’s over before you get bored,” fans here say.
Overall, the cricket fraternity is not complaining. There’s intense competition with the equally popular Rugby League and Aussie Rules football getting more numbers. Now, the Big Bash is getting them for cricket. It remains to be seen if it is because of the T20 league’s honeymoon period or it is cricket’s real deal.