Michael Calvin: Is the Big Bash leaving a dent in Australian hopes of producing Test players?

Focus is increasingly on T20 slog-fest which is making money – but not quality cricketers

Shane Warne retired from cricket on Monday, for what even he suspects is the 10th time. This came as a surprise to those who assumed his affections had long since been divided between Liz Hurley and Las Vegas, with occasional visits to the embalmers at Lord’s.

“I think the time is right for me to hang up my Big Bash boots,” Warne said, ending a short, inglorious spell as captain of the Melbourne Stars, one of the eight teams in Australia’s over-hyped, underwhelming T20 competition.

The Stars’ coach, one Greg Shipperd, took time out from his complementary duties with the Victorian Bushrangers to thank him for sharing “freely with his team-mates from his vault of strategic and mental understandings”, which was nice.

The Big Bash is a gaudy world of tweakers, gunslingers, bombers and finger-licking good sponsorship. According to Cricket Australia, an  organisation which makes our own Lawn Tennis Association appear on-message and far-sighted, it is the future, made flesh.

One would have imagined James Sutherland, their chief executive, would have been cowed by his  responsibilities when he awoke in his London hotel yesterday morning. The headlines at home, following an abject second Test performance which is in danger of devaluing this Ashes series, were horrible. Words like “humbling” and “shabby” were used like stilettos.  

Michael Clarke’s squad was at the mercy of second-rate stand-up comedians, whose jibes – “What do you get if you cross the Australian cricket team with an Oxo cube? A laughing stock” – were clearly retrieved from the Christmas cracker reject pile.

Anyone who believes in the primacy of Test cricket, the status of the Australian team as a symbol of  nationhood, and the myths and legends of Ashes rivalry, would be forgiven for not knowing whether to laugh or cry.  Australian coaches were complaining of bowler-friendly wickets, and the manner in which technical faults of emerging batsmen are disguised by the T20 format. Sutherland, though, was ebullient.

Overnight he had sanctioned the release of a statement which hailed the Big Bash League for “attracting a new, diverse fan base in its first two years with its mix of big hits, great value and explosive action.” It proclaimed: “Our strategy is working.”

It highlighted the fact that 13 per cent of the crowds were experiencing live cricket for the first time. It  applauded T20 as family-friendly  entertainment, and reaffirmed that the school holidays, the most important two months of the domestic season, had been reserved exclusively for the slog-fest. 

Even Ashes-related comment was tailored to the shortest, most brutish form of the game. Michael Hussey, the left-handed batsman who retired from Test cricket earlier in the year after 79 appearances, was wheeled out to confirm he had no wish to return to the bombsite of Australia’s middle-order.  He didn’t sweeten the pill. The Ashes? He was well out of it.

“I’ve been watching the boys over in England” said Hussey, who was promoting his Big Bash move from Perth Scorchers to Sydney Thunder. “Obviously they’re doing it tough at the moment. I’m sort of glad I’m not really in that pressure situation. There’s a lot of stress and tension involved, so I haven’t missed being out there on the international stage.”

Intriguingly, seasoned Australian observers were using Hussey to reinforce the argument that their system militates against the production of a young batsman like Joe Root, whose innings of 180 at Lord’s was an old-school mixture of defensive discipline and measured aggression.

Hussey developed a reputation at an early age for his capacity to leave the ball, effectively and consistently. The principles of the Big Bash means that such caution is coached out of young batsmen, who are encouraged to go for their shots, however rash or unconventional.

Agonised inquests into a lack of technique are drowned out by the hubbub of the market place. With Hussey in the first draft of franchise players for the Big Bash, the focus was firmly on the earning capacity of free agents.

Mitchell Johnson, the Barmy Army’s whipping boy, was quaintly described as a “150kph slinger”. He is the most valuable unsigned player. “Whoever gets him will have to pay top dollar” trilled the PR puff. “The Milky Bars might be on Mitch.”

Joe Burns, Brisbane Heat’s so called “young gun” right-hander, is touted as a top-order target. Believe it or not – and scepticism is understandable – he eats a bag of carrots a day, to improve his night vision.

The subliminal message to Australia’s young cricketers was  unmistakable. If you are a bowler, you don’t need to follow the example of Dennis Lillee, who worked long hours in a bank to earn the right to learn his trade in Grade cricket. Get in the gym, and go for your life.

If you are a batsman don’t bother emulating Don Bradman, who honed his technique by hitting a golf ball with a cricket stump against a water tank in the backyard of the family home in Bowral, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Get the heaviest bat you can carry, and wield it.

Tickets for this winter’s Ashes series Down Under are selling well, despite the inadequacy of Clarke’s team. Cricket captains have a greater range of influence than in many sports, but he looks resigned to his fate.

Like Warne, he is a product of a different time and place.

Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Sport
Vincenzo Nibali rides into Paris on the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France
Tour de FranceVincenzo Nibali is first Italian winner since Marco Pantani in 1998
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Sport
Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (C) celebrates with Scuderia Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton
sport
Arts and Entertainment
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmComedy was dominated by the romcom at its most insufferable
Sport
Tour de France competitor Bartosz Huzarski’s legs have highlighted the gruelling nature of the race, after he posted a picture on Facebook showing extremely prominent veins stretching from his feet and all the way up his legs
Commonwealth Games
Life and Style
Elle Kaye demonstrates the art of taxidermy
food + drinkFood revolution taken a step further in new ‘edible taxidermy’ class
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
Halsall broke her personal best in the 50m butterfly
Commonwealth GamesEnglish swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Voices
The Express offices in the 1930s when writers (such as Orwell) were paid around £2 weekly
voicesWebsites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
A cut above: Katy Guest at The Ginger Pig
food + drinkThe Ginger Pig's hands-on approach to primary cuts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried