'Fallen on its face': Waleed Aly blasts Australian cricket 'nullity'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Waleed Aly has added its voice to the criticism around Big Bash scheduling, declaring the competition has “fallen on its face” and become a “nullity.”

Josh Philippe piloted the Sydney Sixers to their second BBL title on Saturday, heaping more misery on the Melbourne Stars some eight years after watching idol-turned-mentor Steve Smith win the inaugural crown.

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Philippe's polished 52 lifted Sydney to 5-116 from 12 overs in the rain-affected final at the SCG, where wet weather was expected to ruin the season decider but stripped only eight overs from each innings.

However there weren’t many people there to watch it.

The weather was certainly a factor, but crowds were well down on what they should have been all throughout the finals.

Waleed Aly has hit out at the scheduling of the Big Bash. Image: Offsiders

Many have put the poor attendance numbers down to the fact that the season runs too long, with games on weeknights suffering because school holidays is over.

“The tournament has fallen on its face, because it ceases to be part of the rhythm of summer, in the way that it was in its heyday, probably a few years ago,” Aly said on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

“I remember that routine. The national team was on free-to-air; you’d get to the end of that day and you’d roll into the Big Bash. You might have to change the channel, but you would still roll into it. It was part of that routine.

“For me, this whole tournament has become … a nullity, and I think part of the reason for that is that it feels like the summer of cricket’s not around.”

However renowned cricket journalist Gideon Haigh didn’t quite agree, suggesting the tournament is simply coming back to earth after an ‘extraordinary’ peak.

“I don’t agree with that … It had an astonishing, astronomical peak in 2016/17 and it has since stabilised to something that is more sustainable,” he replied.

The Sydney Sixers celebrate after winning the BBL09 title. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Crowds way down from previous BBL seasons

The Big Bash drew an average crowd of 30,122 in 2016/17, but that number has dropped way down to just 18,754 this season.

In BBL07 in 2017/18, a total of 129,990 fans attended the three finals matches, but a meagre 63,489 showed up for five finals matches this season.

Cricket Australia officials shortened the Big Bash season by a week for BBL09, with 61 games played in 53 days (finals included).

Last season saw 59 games played across 60 days, way up from the 35 games in 39 days for BBL06.

Just 13,067 fans showed up at the MCG last Thursday night for the preliminary final, a fraction of the 100,000-seat stadium.

And only 11,031 fans turned out for The Eliminator in Hobart the week before.

The heavier schedule also created the farcical possibility that the trophy could have been awarded to the Sixers without a ball being bowled in the final, with no reserve day scheduled.

That scenario was avoided, but it did spark some uproar among commentators and fans.

“What I was surprised by was there was no reserve day,” Shane Warne said in commentary for Fox Sports last week.

“After 10 weeks, the competition — I believe is too long, it’s still a couple of weeks too long — I think you could probably condense it.

“I think it’s one of the premium T20 competitions. I think this and the IPL are the two best T20 competitions in the world and it’s one the players all want to play in. To not have a reserve day for the final seems a little bit odd for me.

“I know international players and the Australian players, everyone has to go but if you’re going to make the competition so long, how can you not find a reserve day.”