Updated: Feb 19
A new report from ESPNCricinfo details some radical changes proposed for the Australian t20 competition-the Big Bash League. Suggested changes are rumoured to include: bonus points based on a team's standing after 10 overs of an innings; substitutions at a specific point; a four over powerplay with a floating two overs for another period in the game; free-hits for wides; extra breaks for tactical discussion or advertisements and a draft for overseas players. So, what of these changes, and how should the English domestic game change?
Innovation in cricket is key. DRS is a massive advantage, and, is often used well. The general growth of t20 has attracted new fans to the game and developed new skills, even if these are sometimes poorly applied in the longer format. While none of the BBL innovations are likely to be ground-breaking, some can be good.
An overseas player draft will work well in the Australian system with eight teams, but would not be applicable for the 18 teams in the ECB's t20 Blast (the chaos would be quite something-just not positively).
Allowing two overs of the powerplay to float in the innings is clever, meaning momentum can be rebuilt if innings face a dip. It may also help the bowling side if they are forced onto the attack more often.
Substitutions will likely catch on quickly. A side being able to take out a slower batsmen having built momentum or add a spinner on a dry pitch would bring greater skill to the game as more contests would have the best players in the squad involved.
However, some of the changes are not as good. Allowing a free-hit for a wide discourages bowlers from bowling wide yorkers, a skill key to death bowling, further forcing the advantage toward the bat in t20. Bonus points after 10 overs seem clever but are pointless. A side should be judged on the result of the game-not how well placed they are after half an innings. Furthermore, it reduces the impact of an innings being rescued by an individual knock, as the score after 10 overs may not be impressive.
While some of the proposed BBL changes may not help the game, seeing cricket boards try and innovate is a good sign-when done in the interest of cricket. The ECB's ignorance of the t20 Blast (a competition that has seen attendance increase by 47% in the past five years) is not a good sign. While The Hundred may turn out to be a successful competition, it should not be at the expense of the county game. The Blast is successful, ticket revenue is key to counties but it should not be side-lined for a competition that will push counties away from the height of summer. Furthermore, the County Championship is pushed further away from best conditions in the summer, hurting chances of promoting top quality test players. I do not think The Hundred is a disastrous idea, but it will not work if the rest of county cricket is pushed aside for it.
Changes proposed to the BBL are not all good and may not all benefit the game. But attempting to improve a successful existing competition is sensible management. As is working to try and make a new tournament-however, side-lining the rest of the game is not innovation. It is detrimental to the counties and to the future of English cricket.