While the Indian Premier League (IPL) has set a high benchmark for inter-club Twenty20 leagues around the world, Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL) turned out to be a hit last year with record attendances.

“We are up to BBL 5, and in the last two years it has changed a lot of Australian cricket. Every match was sold out; there were 80,000 at the MCG and this is domestic cricket, not international and there were 50,000 at the Adelaide Oval. People want to come and watch,” said former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson after completing an eight-day coaching clinic at the Payyade Sports Club here on Saturday.

Lawson, incidentally, had coached the IPL team, Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

The 58-year-old Australian, who has spent a lot of time in Lahore coaching the Pakistan national team, said the television audience for the BBL is significant. “The BBL goes on for five weeks. It’s held during the school holidays and all kids are admitted to the grounds free; if you are under-15 you go free. The mothers and fathers go. The weather is good; it’s summer time, warm evenings… all perfect for the Big Bash. People go home and switch on the TV at 7 O’ clock. They don’t really care who is playing. They are not following the Sydney Sixers or Sydney Thunders or the Brisbane Heat. They just watch the game. A lot of people who never watch cricket watch the Big Bash. All kids, from the age of five to nine, go and see the Big Bash; they will be cricket fans forever. Australia is a cricket country, not quite as much as India though,” said Lawson.

When asked if the BBL will affect Test cricket, Lawson said, “In Australia, interest for Test cricket has always been high. People always ask, ‘Will the Big Bash take people away from Test cricket?’ The answer is no. They actually bring people to Test cricket. We introduce people to cricket, which is 20-over cricket. Then, they watch Test cricket as well. All the young kids want to watch Test cricket.”

Lawson doesn’t believe that bowling skills have improved because of Twenty20. “I saw a survey on TV last night; it asked which skill has improved the most in the IPL. The response from 80 per cent was that bowling skills have improved. I have never seen such rubbish in my life; it’s absolute trash. And 14 per cent said that the IPL has improved batting skills. Batsmen are reverse sweeping sixes, they are ramping 150 kmph (of delivery) for a six, they are doing a whole lot of things they never really did. Bowlers have gone downhill.

“Bowlers are now forced into a role where they are going to bowl into a small zone. You can only bowl one bouncer an over. They get called for a wide if it is a little bit away. Bowlers have lost so much in 20-over cricket. It’s ridiculous. The ball swings two or three overs. The bats are getting bigger and bigger. The spinner bowls beautifully, the batsman swings the bat and it goes for a six. Bowling skills and bowling rewards have crashed.


“The IPL, basically, is a six- and four-hitting contest. That is what it’s been reduced to. You see the occasional twos. There’s no skill in running between wickets, no skill in fielding in the in-field. There have been very few caught and bowled (victims); catches are basically taken in the outfield. The IPL has changed the face of cricket. We need to redress that and give the bowlers a chance. And also in the IPL, they have got the boundaries in. In Australia, at least we have the boundaries out. At least, most of the times, the mis-hits get caught. The bowlers have lost a lot in 20-over cricket.”

‘Gayle, you are not in Jamaica’

Lawson was of the view that people have to be sensitive and respect local cultures. When asked if Melbourne Renegades — a franchise in Australia’s Big Bash League —did the right thing by not renewing Chris Gayle’s contract for BBL-6 for talking inappropriately to The Times reporter, Charlotte Edwardes, Lawson said, “You have got to be sensitive to the culture you are playing in. If I go to Pakistan to coach, I have got to be sensitive to their Islamic culture. If I come to India, I have got to be sensitive to what people do here. And, Chris is behaving exactly like he would in Jamaica.”

Lawson further said: “You have to understand … when you are in a different circumstance, different environment, what is the best way to behave. That applies to everybody, not just to Chris Gayle. I don’t agree when he says ‘that’s how we behave in Jamaica’. Yeah, fine, but you are not in Jamaica. You have to think about it before you open your mouth. It’s the same for Indians in Australia, Australians in India or Indians in England, it is the same thing. I don’t think what Chris has done is a major offence, but it still shouldn’t have been done. It is not a big deal but a big enough deal.”