It’s like walking into a concert or a European football (soccer) match in full swing. The Big Bash cricket season is underway down under throwing the traditional, all in white cricket, with its rules and five day marathons under the bus. The crowds are enthusiastic, energetic and loud. And that’s just the kids…
Growing up I remember playing cricket although I couldn’t really bowl – I couldn’t bat for that matter. I was the 12th man more often than not running on with orange segments and water. I can’t say I enjoyed it however my Dad was the coach, not that that really mattered. Or maybe it did? It wasn’t my strong suit. I was better at athletics and swimming. Anyway, those were the days when test cricket was the only game, five days of agonising drawn out tactics, at least I’m sure that was the plan whilst players in white played the very British version of the game and the Ashes were the holy grail.
Which by the way they still are. Fast forward to 2018 and I now love the game, but not as it once was. Nowadays cricket matches need clarification. Test matches still linger as the traditional version, and given the crowds during the recent Aussie summer show no signs of fading into the background. Quite the opposite.
The 2017/18 Ashes series drew massive sellout crowds for every one of the five match sessions and even though the Aussies thrashed the Poms three nil in the first three matches, the final two were sellouts. At the same time ‘The Big Bash’ was travelling the country being played out in amphitheatres, the teams like ancient gladiators stirring the roaring crowds that packed stadiums to the brim. Proof that the game is once again luring crowds and selling out matches faster than the latest pop sensations. This lightning fast, action packed style of the game has grabbed my attention and that of the world.
The Big Bash League, yes it’s a league now, has garnered support and fired up a new generation of fans. It pits state against state in a limited overs (20 for each side) slog fest. Summers visiting my parents in Brisbane involve nights watching cricket in front of the TV and it’s true to say that the big bash on the telly is one thing, at a match it is another all together.
We’re off to The Gabba (the home of Queensland cricket) for a home team match, against someone else! I’m soon to discover, on home turf, it’s Queensland first and to be fair on every home ground the local teams are supported by vocal crowds and the opposition are, well, the opposition. I’m a passionate Queenslander and so are most of the 42,000 sellout crowd. I’ve been psyching myself up for Kentucky Fried Chicken (they are the sponsors) and cold beer.
The beers flow freely but the Colonel’s chicken is nowhere in sight. The fried food and hotdog stalls are firmly wedged into the framework of the building with prices disproportionate to the quality and quantity of their produce. A tiny gourmet burger joint is tucked into a corner that you’d miss if you blinked or you were on the other side of the stadium. After a lamb burger, beer will provide all the nutrition we need to sustain us over the next 3-4 hours. OK we did succumb to a bucket of chips (French fries) during a mid match munchie break.
Queensland bat first, the crowd is in full voice and the buckethead army chant. Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets, empty, no chicken, are handed out and worn by the masses on their heads as noisemakers and banners are given out for free at the entrance.
Teal and white, the colours of the Brisbane Heat cover everything, including the players. All of the teams have names… Sydney Thunder, Hobart Hurricanes, Perth Scorchers… you get the picture. I have no idea what the other teams strip is. I guess we’ll find out when they walk onto the pitch and this will be the only way you would know there is another team playing.
Everything is teal and white. In this game the players are colour coded. Bright pinks, blues, orange, reds… not a white outfit it in sight. However the ball is white as the game progresses into the night. The traditional red has long been delegated to the tests since the launch of day/night matches. You can’t keep your eye on the ball if you can’t see it!
A Master of Ceremonies leads the night much like a US Presidential candidate rallying their supporters and the home crowd goes wild. Music blares out and hands rise and fall as Mexican waves fly around the crowd. We’re getting the full force of the celebrations and fireworks crack, whistle and fly into the air when sixes are scored as the MC and the crowd are finding their voices. ‘Let’s have another six!’ teases the MC … “Yes!”screams the crowd. Suddenly someone, our someone, is caught out. “Boo!” hiss the crowd.
The amount of runs scored in twenty overs is impressive as teams literally slam the ball all over and out of the park. There are strict penalties to keep up the pace and keep the bowlers moving. We achieve a reasonable score and for the other team, the chase is on. They score a six … no fireworks, “Boo!”screams the crowd. Someone, one of ‘them’ gets out. “Yes!” screams the crowd as fireworks roar into the sky! Completely biased and so utterly engaging.
Although it has to be said, sportsmanship reigns supreme and 50s, 100s or milestones are acknowledged with applause and cheers no matter who has the bat. The atmosphere is electric and Queensland will certainly have their share of torments when they attempt to concentrate on someone else’s home turf.
“While the crowd are having fun so are the players, sometimes baiting the onlookers who more often than not bite back.”
While the crowd are having fun so are the players, sometimes baiting the onlookers who more often than not bite back. It’s well intentioned banter or maybe it’s the Aussie spirit where no one takes things personally or too seriously, although the game is taken very seriously indeed.
Towards the final few overs it’s clear the home team will be victorious and we head to the bus stop before the final ball, to beat the crowds. The organisers are exceptionally well organised and free buses and trains ferry people to and from the match from all over the city.
This game has awakened a new generation of cricket lovers. The crowds are full of kids and this is truly a family night out. This is a new tradition, a new cricket. However it has ignited a love of the game is all its forms and whether it’s the big bash, day/night 50/50 matches or tests, it has ensured generations to come will fall in love with a game that has been bringing people and counties together for over five hundred years.