Where is the interest this summer – Tests or BBL?

Date: December 18, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell


bbl 3BBL 05 starts this evening and it is shaping as the main event for fans over the next five weeks.

After the complete destruction of the touring West Indies side in the opening Test at Bellerive Oval interest in the marquee MCG and SCG Tests is at its lowest ebb since the World Series Cricket some 35 years ago.

Yes, the previous editions of the BBL have garnered interest and following – both through bums on seats and eyes on the goggle box – but this season it is getting a tremendous leg-up thanks to the ineptitude of the Caribbean tourists.

The lead-up to the tournament, starting tonight with a Sydney derby, was given additional clean air with the fact the Hobart Test wrapped up on day three.

With the Sunday and Monday not being required for the red ball game there was additional column centimetres and electronic air-time available to promote the BBL.

We have seen Chris Gayle spruiking the BBL while trying to avoid questions about the current West Indian squad.

Kumar Sangakkara has been before the cameras adorned in his new Hobart Hurricanes shirt.

Mike Hussey has been speaking about captaining the Sydney Thunder.

We have also heard from Brad Hodge, Michael Carbery, Shane Watson, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Bravo and Mahela Jayawardene.

Oh, and we have also heard about some Test cricket related things as well in the past few days – Usman Khawaja is not playing in the opening BBL game; Jackson Bird is hoping to continue his push for a Test recall with some solid performances in the BBL; Joe Burns is hoping to make runs for the Brisbane Heat as he fights to hold his Test spot; and there are concerns over Steve Smith’s workload so he will not be turning out for the Sixers.

Everywhere you turn the cricket talk in the media is dominated by the domestic T20 franchise extravaganza.

With the exception of the historic pink ball match at the Adelaide Oval this Test summer will go down as one of the least inspiring in decades.

The Perth and Brisbane Tests against New Zealand were played on pitches that were reminiscent of the Pacific Highway with ten centuries – two of them north of 250 –  scored as bowlers wondered why they had not taken up a less stressful and soul-destroying vocation.

The Gabba’s Test status was called into question with a five-day crowd that struggled to reach 50,000.

Mind you the fact that the match started three days after the Melbourne Cup – one of the most historic and newsworthy of all-time – did little to help promote the series.

Perth again struggled for a fan base with 40,000 attending the five day’ batathon’.

Hobart was next to come under the spotlight with respect to its future.

In the end, fewer than 6,000 fans turned up on day one with the traditional horde of Hobart school kids ferried in to help populate the grass banks.

TCA administrators bemoaned the fact that the West Indies’ current status did little to invigorate the locals to part with their hard earned.

After day one, their fears were laid bare following a spiritless performance by the tourists that saw Australia paste the ball to all parts of the redeveloped ground.

In less than eight sessions of play Smith’s men went one-nil up.

It left a 14-day break until the Boxing Day Test, traditionally the gem in Cricket Australia’s summer.

By the time the first ball is bowled at the MCG the BBL season will be eight matches old.

Ex-international players from overseas with far more fan recognition than the current Windies squad will have strutted their stuff in the rainbow colours of their BBL franchises – Kallis, Pietersen, Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Gayle.

If it had not been for Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke and Black caps skipper, Brendon McCullum opting out there would be even more high profile ex-internationals turning out in the BBL.

What started largely as a support act is this summer moving from aperitif to main course for many fans.

It is often said that there are largely two separate and distinct fan bases with only a small percentage crossing between the Test and T20 arenas.

This summer there may be a greater transition from the long to short form.

Next summer, the twin-Test series will see South Africa and Pakistan visit our shores.

Cricket South Africa drew a line in the sand a few years back when it stated it would no longer give up home Boxing and New Year’s Day Tests in order to play at Melbourne and Sydney.

Hence, the likes of de Villiers, Amla, Steyn and co will be playing in November and early-December next year leaving Pakistan to take the main stage.

Despite not having played at home since 2009, Pakistan is currently ranked number four in the world Test rankings but I doubt except the most ardent fans could name more than three of the current squad.

And while all the questions remain about Test crowds and interest in that form of the game the BBL is set for a bumper season – and one would suspect its most successful to date.

Just whether the juggernaut continues to roll on time alone will tell.

It does however beg the question dear Roarer, what will capture your interest more over the next month – the Tests or the BBL?

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 17 December 2015, soliciting 107 comments

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