Shane Warne has bemoaned the length of the Big Bash season after an ‘embarrassing’ crowd for the Melbourne Stars’ clash with Sydney Thunder on Thursday night.
The Stars avoided an ignominious straight-sets finals exit after blitzing the Thunder by 28 runs in their preliminary final at the MCG.
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However there weren’t many people there to see it.
Just 13,067 fans showed up at the MCG on Thursday night, a fraction of the 100,000-seat stadium.
With the match played on a Thursday night after school holidays ended, the match didn’t get the crowd it deserved.
Cricket Australia officials shortened the Big Bash season by a week for its ninth instalment, 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.
The heavier schedule has also created the farcical possibility that the trophy will be awarded to the Sydney Sixers without a ball being bowled, with rain predicted to wreak havoc on Saturday’s final and no reserve day on the schedule.
“What I was surprised by was there was no reserve day, I was a bit surprised by that with the Big Bash,” Warne said in commentary for Fox Sports before hitting out at the length of the season.
“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.”
Former Test bowler Shaun Tait was among those to criticise the ‘embarrassing’ scenes at the MCG on Thursday night.
Terrible crowd for Big Bash semi final at MCG. Cricket suffering from overkill in Oz. pic.twitter.com/nNRVK13yzU— simon hughes (@theanalyst) February 6, 2020
Next year the BBL should finish before school goes back https://t.co/Wk3aKRvLjn— Greg Jericho (@GrogsGamut) February 6, 2020
Any idea why the crowd is so poor? I know it’s the MCG but looks sparse. Doesn’t auger well for the future.— John Mellor (@stayleyvegas) February 6, 2020
The size of this mcg crowd proves the bbl goes far too long! #bbl2019— Patrick Kelleher (@pattykelleher4) February 6, 2020
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.
Just 11,031 fans turned out for The Eliminator in Hobart last week, while 15,995 attended the Thunder’s upset over the Strikers at the Adelaide Oval.
“It’s a little bit like cooking the golden goose. They’ve scheduled more games in the last couple of years,” former AFL player Mark Bickley said on Adelaide radio last month.
“Think back to BBL 2, 3, 4 — you were flat out getting into the Adelaide Oval.”
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Batsman Nick Larkin says the Stars will have no one but themselves to blame if they are denied an opportunity at battling it out for the title at the SCG on Saturday night.
Torrential weather is expected to hit NSW across the weekend, with forecasters predicting up to 90mm of rain in Sydney on Saturday alone.
The Stars finished on top of the ladder and would have hosted the final at the MCG if they defeated the Sixers in the qualifying final.
Instead, the Sixers, having earned hosting rights by winning that game in Melbourne last Friday, will be awarded the title if there is no result.
"We'd be disappointed (to lose in that way) but they've (Sixers) earned the right to be hosting the final," Larkin said.
"We can't control the weather so you know whatever the length of the game, we're going to just go and give it a crack.
"If it (weather) intervenes what more could we have done than beat them down here; we had that opportunity and we didn't take it."
A minimum of five overs per team is required to constitute a completed Twenty20 match.
There is no spare day in case of rain, with calls coming this week to shift the game to Melbourne.
A day after saying the final had to stay in Sydney, Thunder captain Callum Ferguson has changed his tune after having more of a think about the situation.
"With a tournament this big, I feel like that's got to be of the utmost importance - you've got to get the game played," he said.
"What we don't want is a title handed over with no game played and just the top-side winning.
"We've got to make sure there's a reserve day, at least."
It would be another frustrating end to a BBL campaign for the Stars, who are one of only two teams yet to win a title.
The victory over the Thunder was just the Stars' third finals win in 11 attempts, having made the post-season in eight of the nine editions of the BBL.