John Harms on the Big Bash

The summer takes a whole new direction this weekend as the gentle rhythms of Test cricket give way to the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of the Big Bash League. Suddenly it’s all maximums and flames shooting skywards and doof-doof speakers testing the rivets of the grandstands.

This is cricket (I think it’s cricket?) of the modern age, developed on the marketing principles of modern sport, and especially modern footy. This is the blueprint of the AFL transposed to cricket: clubs, club colours, club nicknames, players with numbers on their backs, noise, and all the trappings. Those trappings are very much 21st century: Fantasy League teams, Twitter and Facebook.

The Big Bash is building its own momentum. Everything is accelerated. So it won’t be long before these club-franchises have instant traditions and take on instant identities. So which club will become the Collingwood of the Big Bash, the one the rest of the nation just can’t stand? Which club becomes the Richmond of the competition: the side that cannot take a trick and will snatch loss from the jaws of victory? Who becomes the Fitzroy: every fans second team? Who is the Manly: the team that will go after your favourite son?

I daresay it will take some time before we recognise the names of the sides from last summer let alone who is playing for them. Probably about a week given the hype. But pay-TV will be an advantage, or possibly an imperative. (And that’s another key component of the whole shebang).

We punters will have a crack at anything, and the Big Bash is one of the toughest markets the bookies have ever had to frame in their sorry lives. That means we’re going to get overs on a few teams. It’s just a matter of who is the value. The tough thing is that it’s hard to work out the nature of the game of T20 cricket itself, and what yields success, and it’s hard to work out whether it’s a game reliant on individual performance (in which case the team with the most stars wins) or more than that.

The disappointing thing is that when I did the form – I looked through the team lists – and came up with my selection, it coincided with the TattsBet analysis. I picked the TattsBet favourites. It concerns me that I am starting to think like a bookmaker.

The Melbourne Stars – with the great S.K. Warne, the experience and all-round usefulness of David Hussey, the wily accumulator Brad Hodge, the big-hitting Matthew Wade, the clean-striking Rob Quiney, and a few quicks who just provide the cannon-fodder anyway – look like a top collection of individual talent. But then I thought again: they’re a bit old and slow and fielding is a key to T20 cricket. And besides, I’m not backing the favourite.
Sydney Sixers won the BBL last year and they look to be in the mix again with their squad of youth and age. The Perth Scorchers will play the WACA better than any other side. Is their value outside these preferred sides?

The Melbourne Renegades are a little forgotten. They have Murali who isn’t courting Liz Hurley. They have Aaron Finch who can hit it out of the ground. They are at long odds (comparatively).

The two Melbourne sides open the season. What I’m going to do is back the Renegades to beat the Stars in that match, and then see what that causes these TattsBet bookies to do.

Who would have thought an Australian summer would come to this!