BBL eye off consultants to improve standard of pitches

Cricket Australia will put an emphasis on improving pitches for the next evolution of the Big Bash, as they consider making a consultant readily available for all grounds.

The BBL bounced back to life this summer, with the shortened season prompting a 27 per cent increase in crowd averages compared with last year.

But officials are well aware the competition remains at a crucial stage, with pitches one matter on the agenda.

Marvel Stadium and Sydney Showground, two non-Test venues regularly used in the competition, have often drawn external criticism in recent seasons.

The showground was particularly problematic this summer, with the venue remaining the slowest-scoring in BBL history.

The dour nature of the Sydney Thunder’s loss to Perth this month prompted Ricky Ponting to call for the Thunder to move to Canberra, labelling the wicket “substandard” for the BBL.

The Thunder have made clear they will not abandon western Sydney, with the region crucial to Cricket Australia as one of the country’s most populated and culturally diverse areas.

BBL officials did not want to comment on the performance of individual wickets, but know the standard of pitches is important for crowds to continue to return.

“Our data shows and we know that crowds love high scores and close run chases,” BBL boss Alistair Dobson told AAP.

“That’s a pretty clear brief from our perspective, conditions that are conducive to lots of runs and close games.

“As we start to drive crowds back, ensuring the cricket is as world-class as it can be is becoming more and more important in a pretty competitive market.”

In Sydney, both the SCG and showground fell well below the competition’s average run-rate of 8.25, while Adelaide and Hobart produced the most batter-friendly conditions.

Officials could also look at whether it is possible to have drop-in wickets installed earlier at multi-purpose venues to make for better pitches, with circumstances viewed as the biggest challenge for curators.

The possibility of a league-wide pitch consultant is also an option. They would work with venues to deliver wickets more in line with the competition’s aim.

“By and large we’ve had a great year in that. We’ve seen some big scores and some really competitive games,” Dobson said.

“Noting this year weather has played a role, and the sheer number of different venues is always going to provide some variability.

“Ultimately it’s about working closely with our clubs and venues so that they understand what works best for the BBL and to deliver on that.”

The league will also consult clubs on changes that could lock in overseas players for the finals, and whether to shorten the WBBL to 10 rounds, with the installation of a third umpire for all women’s matches likely.


Adelaide Oval: 9.48

Blundstone Arena: 8.83

Optus Stadium: 8.58

Gabba: 8.36

Carrara: 8.23

Marvel Stadium: 8.18

MCG: 7.88

SCG: 7.73

Manuka: 7.56

Sydney Showground: 7.31

All venues: 8.25


Scott Bailey
(Australian Associated Press)


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