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Cricket: How the Big Bash League will influence New Zealand

More New Zealanders could be lining up to play in the Big Bash, like Ish Sodhi with the Adelaide Strikers. Photo / Getty
More New Zealanders could be lining up to play in the Big Bash, like Ish Sodhi with the Adelaide Strikers. Photo / Getty

The debate among the Australian cricket fraternity about how to expand the Big Bash League has come with a familiar echo here: "get a New Zealand team into the competition".

Competitions like the BBL and the Indian Premier League are revolutionising how people want to watch the game. Those are not 2017 presidential inauguration crowd numbers we see across the Tasman or in India; they're real. To a lesser extent, that also happened with the McDonald's Super Smash. People rolled through the turnstiles at boutique grounds, particularly on weekend afternoons.

This writer loves watching test cricket most, but purists are fast drifting into the minority, if they haven't arrived. The value and impact of T20 cricket must be treated with sincerity. It has influenced the test game more than vice versa, hence the added debate about whether we should revert to four-day tests.

New Zealand Cricket will want to gain as much goodwill as possible from such extravaganzas, but without detracting from a local game which can struggle to captivate a public with more avenues for both their disposable income and their time than past generations.

Logic says not to go down the solitary-franchise-in-an-Australian-competition road because it risks decimating your domestic pathways. Local rugby league, basketball and football leagues all battle for recognition with the rise of the Warriors, Breakers and Phoenix.

NZC need a top-performing Black Caps team to draw sponsors and television rights as revenue streams to help fund development programmes and competitions.

A suitable compromise for players and administrators is the issuing of no-objection certificates (granted in most instances) to play in global T20 leagues. The current calendar suggests quality New Zealand short-form players could eschew nationalism in favour of a decent living travelling the world.

However, unlike the relationship between several West Indian players and their board, a level of respect has built in New Zealand which recognises NZC's role in nurturing players to be competitive on the world stage. The governing body was recently lauded by former captain Brendon McCullum for their flexibility, but still need to be vigilant with the burgeoning nature of such competitions.​

The proposal by Cricket New South Wales that BBL games could be taken into New Zealand, China, Hong Kong and Singapore further endorses the NZC mindset. Grow the pie of people loving the game rather than risking cannibalisation, although it does risk eating into people's spending money; and Super Smash sponsors might baulk that a focus on BBL games dilutes their own investment.

A development might be a couple of seasons away but it seems inevitable if the competition keeps growing. NZC will want to be proactive, swimming with rather than against the tide of commercial forces.

- NZ Herald

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