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Adam Voges, the Perth Scorchers coach, has delivered a strong criticism of the 14-game length of the regular Big Bash League season, while opting for some cautious optimism about rule changes that have been brought in as an attempt to "spice up" the tournament after several years of declining broadcast audiences.
In a week when there has been plenty of criticism of the introduction of changes including a substitute player, the splitting of powerplay overs into an initial four followed by a floating two rather than the usual six at the start of an innings, and the adding of a race for a bonus point at the 10-over mark of a match, Voges said the main issue for the league was player availability.
At its current 14-game season length, Voges said that not enough of the best players - both local and overseas - were able to take part. While all clubs and players have long accepted Cricket Australia's desire to run the tournament through the school holiday period to ensure maximum exposure to children in particular, its rapid growth from eight to 10 to 14 games has only added pressure to sustain interest in the event through the acquisition of bigger name players.
"Yeah I've got a view on this, I think the season is too long," Voges told ABC Radio. "I'd love to see it reduced a little bit and find a window where we can get the best players playing. That's the most important part, I think that's what makes the product, it's aimed still at families and attracting new people to the game, so if we can do that by having the best players playing, and if that means a shorter, sharper format, then I'm all for it."
Defenders of the tournament's length at CA have argued that at 14 games it is still shorter than an AFL or NRL season, while at the same time out-rating both in terms of broadcast audiences, despite a marked decline that began in 2017. However there is no top-tier Australian domestic league that competes with the international variant of the same game at the same time, and it is clear that the "major event" buzz surrounding the early seasons of the BBL had much to do with shorter, sharper schedules.
Davie Barham, the former Ten broadcasting executive who was commissioned by CA to review the BBL ahead of its tenth season, had stated that organisers needed to be "brave" and recognise that bigger is not always better. He cited how the NFL had maintained a massive captive audience through the major events standing of an annual season that is only 18 rounds long - far fewer than the rival NBA or MLB seasons.
As for the rule changes, Voges stated that while he was fearful that new followers of the game might find them difficult to comprehend, he would be doing his utmost as coach of the Scorchers to use the new tactical nuances to his advantage. "I'll go in with these rule changes with the glass half-full mentality and try and find a way to tactically use them to our advantage in any way that we can," he said. "But I do worry that a game and a format of our game that targets families, targets new people, that we perhaps are complicating it a little bit.
"But look it hasn't been trialled, it hasn't been tested, we'll all be thinking on our feet, and we'll see how it goes."