Usain Bolt hasn’t got much left to prove as a sprinter. Shane Warne has suggested he might like to try Twenty20 cricket instead. ‘Why not play in Australia’s Big Bash?’ he said. The Melbourne Stars franchise has now opened negotiations with Bolt’s management company.
Wherever Bolt appears, you get extra viewers, so the commercial benefits are obvious. In terms of the cricket, Bolt said:
“I don’t know how good I am. I will probably have to get a lot of practice in.”
He did play junior cricket and so isn’t a complete incompetent, but how would his presence affect public perception of the competition as a whole?
Cricketers are often at pains to tell us just how much time and effort they invest in perfecting Twenty20 skills. If they’re competing against someone who has been invited to play based on his fame and who has put in just a few months’ practice, what does that say about the competitiveness and integrity of that tournament?
Sport can be a light-hearted knockabout, but only really for one-off events. If you’re trying to build something that people will follow for years, you need the edge that comes through competition.
That’s where the tension comes from. That’s what makes sport. Sports entertainment is something entirely different and must be marketed in a different way.
The Big Bash has a choice to make and the decision will reflect on the shortest format wherever it is played.