Bolt, Blake and the Big Bash League
Just when it looked like all the crazy talk had died down, the Olympics showed up and a couple of ridiculously quick Jamaicans started to appear in the cricketing headlines again. Usain Bolt and Johan Blake are both phenomenal athletes, no one will disagree on that but are they cricketers? I mean genuine, worthy of a spot in a top flight team, cricketers. Logic says no. Media fueled marketing madness says yes.
I suspect most people have seen the footage of Bolt dismissing fellow Jamaican Chris Gayle, if you haven’t look for it on YouTube. But he has done this just once, and it wasn’t technically in a ‘serious’ match as far as I am aware – with true game face on, I suspect the only way Bolt would be getting Gayle out is off a mis-timed shot as Gayle tries to dispatch Bolt 30 rows back into the grandstand. I haven’t seen any footage of Blake playing, but he’s talked himself up as being a force with both bat and ball – and maybe he is? Who knows? He apparently took 4 wickets in some sort of T20 match in the Caribbean prior to the Olympics, but I suspect the BBL would be a little more competitive than that contest.
No doubt that the addition of either would be a massive marketing coup for the lucky(?) team and the Big Bash League as a whole. But marketing alone isn’t everything, particularly if the cost is a reduction in the quality of cricket being put on display for the paying public. Sure, plenty may be ok with a slight drop in standards if they get the chance to see the Caribbean superstars running around on the field, but personally I’d prefer they tried to lure genuine international cricketing stars – or sign up more local talent.
Despite having been around for almost a decade Twenty20 still struggles to shake the ‘hit and giggle’ stigma attached to it by cricketing purists – the introduction of non-cricketers into a serious tournament only helps to reinforce this negative opinion. Remember (if you don’t that says a lot too) a few years back when the NSW Blues signed up rugby league player Andrew Johns? Yeah that went well. He even had an apparent ‘cricketing background’, yes, he’d played 4th or 5th grade in the Newcastle district comp – just a little different don’t ya think? I’m certain that whoever it was that missed out on a spot in the eleven so that Johns could play as fielder/marketing object was probably pretty miffed.
With this being only the second year of the revamped Big Bash League I don’t think the league has necessarily earned the right to do outlandish things like bringing in Olympic sprinting champions – especially when there are so many actual cricketers (approx. 50 who played in BBL01) who are yet to get a call up for season 2. Really, it is not like they even need to do it to bring in the crowds and viewers, last year’s attendance and viewership was pretty damn good from memory – especially considering it had no free-to-air coverage (terrific online coverage more than made up for this).
I’ve noticed more than a couple of people suggesting that perhaps rather than ‘wasting’ an actual squad spot on either, that instead they could feature in an all-star game to kick things off before the BBL gets underway. Something along the lines of the ACA All-Stars match that we had for a couple of years but which has now seemingly been phased out. Maybe make it Bolt’s XI v Blake’s XI – even let them select their own teams if they know so much about cricket. It would still give Cricket Australia and the Big Bash League an upfront marketing boost – for both the BBL and the rest of the cricketing summer – and they could still, if they wanted to, sign the Jamaican pair up to film a couple of TV ads and use them to promote the league throughout the summer. This arrangement means you wouldn’t then have to compromise the quality of the cricket or deny genuine cricketers the chance of a contract.
If in the, logically unlikely, yet still possible event that Bolt and/or Blake actually get picked up by one of the teams then so be it. All the best to them. I will still watch and I will still enjoy the BBL. In particular I’ll watch with keen interest to see if they are anywhere near as good as they claim that they are. But I truly feel that the BBL is not yet mature enough to be jumping the shark as it heads into only its second year of existence.
Keep in mind, however, that while Bolt and Blake are great sprinters, they’re not (shark) hurdlers.