If Usain Bolt plays Twenty20 cricket will that add to the format or detract from it?

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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.


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  1. “The Big Bash has a choice to make and the decision will reflect on the shortest format wherever it is played.

    Interesting. BBL selects Usain Bolt. IPL is devalued?

    1. Twenty20 is devalued to a degree, so yes.

      It’s not like the IPL will suddenly be without value, but it will take a slight knock in some people’s eyes.

    2. Actually, it kind of does. How many times have you heard someone say something along the lines of: “He averages 44 in Test cricket, but if you take out Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe…”

      Also, Test cricket is most definitely being devalued by matches which don’t feature the best players.

      That wasn’t really our point though. We think a lot of players’ Twenty20 reputations are built on fairly shaky foundations and things like this expose that. If you’ve got Player A hitting Player B for three sixes in the IPL, that’s more impressive if Player B has a good reputation. If Player B’s reputation is largely built on his great performances in the Big Bash then a lot hinges on the integrity of that competition. If that’s devalued then Player B is devalued and Player A’s six-hitting exploits are partly devalued as well. Where does it end?

  2. If I were a first-class player and this guy came up to bat against me, I’d want to make him regret that decision as much and as soon as possible. Much as I love Usain Bolt, I think this is unwise.

  3. It’s all very silly. I’m quite looking forward to the spectacle of an all-run four off a nurdle to fine leg, though.

  4. Are you taking a tactical decision to simply ignore Pietersen in the hope that we’ll all believe he never even existed?

    1. We wrote about that crap twice last week. What do you want from us?

      KP and the ECB have still fallen out and it’s still a mess. We’ll write about it again just as soon as it stops boring us.

  5. You can see how it makes perfect sense though. Corporations exist to make money. They can see the potential for making money in sport advertising, so they get involved. But investing money is all about maximising certainty and minimising risk, and sport is inherently uncertain. So administrators in thrall to the corporations try to give them some investment security, no matter what the cost in sporting terms. If Usain Bolt plays, the interest in the media and general public is certain to be high, as required by the sponsors. That the sport itself is diminished won’t even register with them, because it is the means, not the end.

    Increasingly, and not just with cricket, we desperately need sporting administrators to stand against this. We need them to stand up for the actual sport. Marketing craves certainty; sport is at its glorious best when it is completely uncertain. There is a careful, reasonable line that can be walked between the two. The problem is that most sports’ governing bodies seem to have decided not to bother, and instead to be 100% on the sponsors’ side of it.

    1. This is the official Tunnock’s Tea-cake opinion tea-break.
      Get the (mal)low-down with the Tunnock’s Tea-cake opinion tea-break.

  6. It does suggest a dire lack of self-confidence in cricket.
    It’s a situation you would never see in that sport from the telly (the boring one, with the big ball and all the men with haircuts).
    Chris Hoy has not been drafted by the Birmingcastle United, and Ben Ainslie isn’t expecting a call from the Manchester Cormorants, or whoever.

  7. If he’s good, then it won’t detract from it. Can’t see what it adds, though. Luckily we’re only talking about Tacky20 anyway.

    Chances are it’ll end up more like Michael Jordan trying to play baseball, though.

    Maybe he should sign for Lashings or something.

    1. It might be like Dwain Chambers trying to play American football. What a good idea that was.

  8. I’d like to see a Venn with the categories: a) people who believe this move would devalue T20 b) people who attach value to T20 c)people who give a damn about the Big Bash.

    1. We didn’t realise Twenty20 had as much value as it does until we realised that some of it could be removed in this way.

    2. daneel, that was the point really. This is (mostly) a non-issue. Although, to be fair, there would be some overlap between b and c.

  9. Is this for real? This is the problem when you read only this site for cricket news, sometimes cricket truth is less believable than the rambling nonsensical fiction of KC (In this context, “rambling nonsensical fiction” should be taken as an endorsement of this site, not a criticism).

    1. It is true that negotiations have been ‘opened’.

      Quite whether that amounts to anything in real terms is another matter.

  10. It should be interesting. If Bolt does play, and doesn’t get completely outclassed, it will reflect very poorly on the standard of cricket in T20 and the Big Bash. If he plays and his bowling gets thwacked all over the park, he will devalue the team and embarass himself.

    Either way, theres not much good that can come out of it. Except seeing him field at deep mid wicket.

  11. Would love to see Usain Bolt play T20 cricket. It would definitely boost the T20 format, and overall, cricket. Although I wouldn’t want T20 to rise so high so that Tests and maybe ODIs would be forgotten! 🙂 Cheers, CricketNNS

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