As Brett Lee’s beloved Sydney Sixers prepared to play in Saturday’s Big Bash League Final against the Perth Scorchers at the WACA, the former pace ace credited the public’s insatiable demand for adrenaline-charged action for pushing Cricket Australia to increase next summer’s number of Twenty20 games.
The latest edition of Australia’s domestic T20 competition has been another rip-roaring success with record television ratings and crowds steering the BBL to another dimension.
Lee, whose farewell to cricket involved a gripping super over for the Sixers in the 2015-16 BBL Final against the Scorchers at Canberra, could appreciate why next summer’s group stage had been extended from 32 to 40 games.
“I haven’t been surprised by the way in which the public has taken to BBL because I know what it offers,” Lee told Sportsta in an exclusive interview.
“If you’re excited as a player … excited to be a part of the game … your energy shows; it oozes out of you and the crowd feeds off that."
“And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the BBL."
“The guys playing in the BBL are in an environment where the crowd is having fun and they’re excited … it’s a great atmosphere and we’re seeing players respond to it with some incredible performances.”
Lee, however, disagreed with suggestions the BBL had hijacked Australian cricket, insisting the fast ‘n furious format had done extremely well to attract a new audience to a sport that’s steeped in tradition.
“It’s an exciting game, but I think the Australian public can now distinguish between the BBL, one day cricket and Tests - and that’s a very important point because I think it was blurred before."
“Each format is offering its own unique form of excitement. I mean, David Warner hit a century in a session against Pakistan in the New Year’s Test at the SCG and the crowd loved it."
“I think when they see something like that the purists ask themselves ‘how far can these players go?’ and ‘how many more records can they break?’"
"I think those same people have also learnt to accept that when they attend a T20 match it isn’t going to be a Test. They take their seat knowing players adopt the skills and technique needed to succeed in that format.”
Lee also appreciated cricket’s hierarchy hadn’t imposed some of the traits that make the BBL a nail-biting experience for fans and players alike into the Test arena - including a free hit after a no ball is bowled.
“While I like the fact we’re now seeing day-night Test matches, I respect they haven’t really touched Test cricket,” said Lee.
While Lee predicted earlier in the BBL season Perth was the team to beat, he hoped his old club could add another BBL title to its trophy cabinet despite being pitted against a team that enjoys a 6-3 head-to-head record against them.
Despite the statistics Perth’s coach Justin Langer was taking nothing for granted, being quoted as saying he paid plenty of attention to the Sixers’ reaction after they hung on to defeat the Brisbane Heat and force their way into the final.
“I was interested about how calm the Sixers stayed afterwards,” Langer said in an interview. “That made me a bit nervous. They know like us, they don’t want the semi-final to define their season."
“They’re an experienced team, all up it was a good game of cricket. Knowing we’re playing the Sixers is the good thing.”
BBL FINAL SQUADS
Sydney Sixers: Moises Henriques (C), Sean Abbott, Jackson Bird, Doug Bollinger, Johan Botha, Ben Dwarshuis, Brad Haddin, Daniel Hughes, Michael Lumb, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Jordan Silk, Henry Thornton.
Perth Scorchers: Adam Voges (C), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Hilton Cartwright, Michael Klinger, Mitchell Johnson, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Sam Whiteman.
Daniel Lane, exclusively for Sportsta.