The summer I learned to love 20/20

BBL|01 was not even remotely on my radar.

When BBL|02 came along, I was barely in my cricket-tragic infancy.

By the time BBL|03 hit, I was so Ashes-infused and excited about finally understanding the appeal of Test cricket that I struggled to get excited about ODIs, let alone some ridiculously short pretend version of the game for the attention-span-challenged who wouldn’t or shouldn’t call themselves real cricket fans. Yes… I was that snobbish.

So what changed in the summer of 2014-15?

IMG_5626It started really with becoming a WACA member, and then learning that Beck, a good friend of mine, was keen to join me there for a match. The first occasion we could manage was Boxing Day – a BBL|04 Scorchers v Renegades showdown.

We had both felt deeply affected by the death of Phillip Hughes a month earlier, and thought it might prove a healing experience – a chance to get back to enjoying our cricket without fear. Plus with Beck being from Melbourne, and me a proud West Aussie – it seemed a sound basis for a good day out.

IMG_5622Although the run chase was less than inspiring, because Renegades were never really in with a chance, I did come away from that game with a whole new appreciation. Being part of the jubilant crowd that cheered on Klinger as he smacked a six from the last ball of the Scorchers innings, to launch himself over the magic ton mark, particularly imprinted itself upon me. The presence of more families and kids than I’d ever seen at a match before, and the Scorchers’ commitment to sign as many autographs as were needed and to pose for endless photos at the end of the match, also told a compelling story. It was clearly fan and family orientated – a real treat.

On my return home, I didn’t really think that much more of it. I made more of an effort perhaps than I would have ordinarily to catch subsequent games on TV, aided by the fact my housemate was away for the next fortnight and there was no competition for my attention or the remote control.

And before I knew it I was hooked! It helped having Beck and her hubby Craig on the other end of a near constant sms stream most games, as we marvelled at the close run chases, rued missed opportunities and revelled in the success of favourite players. And once my housemate returned, she also got drawn into the web of BBL|04 appreciation.

I even grew a soft spot for KP, thanks to his frequent appearances in the commentary box and his inane giggle. I felt strangely compelled to buy his book after one particular game where he famously had a little chat with Punter… And the fun and antics of the fabulous Freddie Flintoff – well, what’s not to like?

I’m still mightily fascinated by the extraordinary ratio of pink shirts among the male media commentators. Not that there’s anything wrong with pink. There was clearly a very strong directive from wardrobe on the colour palette that was acceptable for the commentary room – pastels all the way, unless you were wearing a pink shirt in which case any shade would do.

As the pointy end of the competition approached, I found myself thinking that I didn’t actually care too much who would win, so long as the remaining games were close and hard fought matches. Scorchers were still top of my list, with Stars a close second, but if a good team was to beat either of them I wouldn’t have been too disappointed, so long as it was a good match. And I wasn’t disappointed in any case.

When the Scorchers earned a home semi, I made a last minute decision to head down to Perth and take my brother Damon to the game – he’s not particularly a cricket fan, but he didn’t mind a day out doing something different.

Such a photogenic family!

Such a photogenic family!

I hadn’t thought he’d really taken that much in on the day beyond how impressive the technology powering the big screens was (he’s an electronics tech wizard!) – it was more of a chance for us to catch up over a beer or four – but when the final rolled around I discovered he was watching it too with his workmates at the local pub. The experience really seemed to be a bit contagious – helped no doubt by Scorchers’ exciting back to back victory.

So I find myself wondering is 20/20 the dumbing down of cricket for a modern audience or essential updating? In some ways, it can be seen as the equivalent of a Twitter version of Pride and Prejudice, or setting Beethoven to a nifty drumbeat. I haven’t worked out whether these fusions are destined to attract an audience that will never really understand the beauty and art of the original classic version; or maybe, just maybe, they could in fact be the hook that inspires a whole new journey of discovery and appreciation of the traditional genre. For cricket’s sake, I’m hoping it’s the latter.

But I haven’t spent too much time thinking about it to be honest. For now what matters is I’m a fan, and happy to shout it out loud. BBL|05 – bring it on!