Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Super Smash Conundrum

In the continual flood of domestic T20 hooey raining upon us all year wide; athletes formerly known as cricketers strut about in coloured pyjamas engaging in high powered baseball cricket.  It's been on for a few years now, and with time it became clear that the IPL and the Big Bash reign supreme among the various PLs' in Pakistan, Bangladesh, The Caribbean and England.

But more importantly, and rather sadly, it became clear which of these tournaments didn't rise to the top, New Zealand's very own fast food variety, the Super Smash.

While one might not be a resounding advocate of T20, we have to accept it exists, it's here to stay, and even may even go as far as deserving its place as an energetic crowd-pull over a couple of lazy beers.

Our flavour is no different to the rest of the leagues, in theory at least; a series of domestic level teams tearing apart a torrent of bowling mediocrity, partaken on postage stamps as each forgettable match follows another until we have an equally forgettable 'champion'.

The difference is, our version is dead; but perhaps with a bit of foresight and imagination it doesn't have to be this way.

Two ways we can instantly fix it:

1. Bring In The People
Granted, it's not easy to plan around an international calendar for all three formats of the game, but there needs to be a deliberate effort made to get a T20 window blocked out. Guess what already found success in New Zealand? Rugby Sevens and Auckland Nines. 

Putting the fun in fun-sized, the heavily concentrated and time-boxed events worked wonders simply because they were easy to plan for and commit to; they packed a quick punch and it was over with without saturating it's potential.

Could this work for cricket? In T20 absolutely.

A one month tournament is insanely long, we simply do not have the spectator base to hold up that level of interest.  Trim it to a week.  

We only have six teams and have the ability to crack through two games a day - no different to a day out during a regular ODI match. If everyone plays each other once, that's 15 games + 1 final, easily done.  Turn each venue into a real carnival; milk it with fan zones, player meets, and the sureshot option of handing out free stuff.  Why not dish out free data spots offered by a happy sponsor?

Unlike vanilla cricket this is the chance to get creative, at the moment there simply isn't enough imagination.

2. Bring In The Players
Now that there's bums on seats, we need action.  The lack of cricketing star power has plagued our domestic competition for decades, there simply never is enough emotional investment.

Now with all due respect to the Carl Cachopas' and Scott Kuggeligns' of our world, the future of our sport needs to be playing alongside our top graders to develop themsleves and importantly truly get our attention. The team sheets are simply not magnetic enough to register on most radars.   We gamely try to give the competition TV & radio coverage, but this is all akin to Roger Federer's presence in Auckland in 2000. A diamond in the making is simply a lump of rock.

What do we really want to see?

We want to see Brendon McCullum ruthlessly charging Trent Boult, the way he audaciously attacked Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson.  Boult retaliates, rapping one into his ribs, McCullum then tries to counter but it nips back in a touch and he loses his pegs. Our country's best bowler versus our most lunatic batsman, now that I'll make time for.

How about Ish Sodhi fire through Ross Taylor like a hot curry with that wicked wrong'un, fresh after a couple of Taylor patented slog sweeps have disappeared into the banks.   Will a Tim Southee yorker land or get hit clean out of the ground by Martin Guptill?  Does the old fox Daniel Vettori still have a trick or two, or will the forgotten Jesse Ryder bash him out of the attack?

The Super Smash, should, have your answers. At the moment it's not asking questions.

If you start to introduce stakes to the game, then you might attract more riches - the Pollards' and Pietersens' of the world.  Get enough West Indians here and you might even get Chris Gayle touching NZ soil in the one format he really cares about.  Now there's a crowd puller.

Why not throw in a mandatory couple of under-19 players?  Cash in on a bit of free talent exposure.

These little encounters are the stuff of cricket, especially this brand of cricket.  It is designed to be grandiose and gladiatorial; what use is that without gladiators?

Cricket Max made the same mistake two decades ago, remember Carl Bulfin anyone?