“We couldn’t be happier.”
It’s a phrase uttered regularly by Big Bash League chief Anthony Everard when asked to reflect on the just-completed season.
And rightly so.
A summer of instantly forgettable Test cricket increased the attention on the competition and it didn’t let us down.
There were last-ball thrillers, incredible dismissals and that 117m Dan Christian six in the fifth edition, that culminated in the Sydney Thunder being crowned Big Bash League champions after a thrilling three-wicket win against Melbourne Stars at the MCG on Sunday night.
Thanks largely to Usman Khawaja’s heroics – he made 70 off 40 balls – the Thunder mowed down the Stars’ total of 9-176 with three balls to spare in front of 47,672 fans.
Click here to read more about the match.
Clever scheduling meant there was almost always a game on each night and the Big Bash League’s timing – in Australia’s peak holiday period – saw huge crowds and television ratings.
The first edition of the women’s competition was also an unqualified success, with several matches shifted from secondary channels on commercial television to main ones.
“Without question, it’s been our best season yet,” Everard told The New Daily.
“Seven of our eight teams have broken their attendance record, TV ratings are up almost 20 per cent and we’ve had record merchandise sales and record membership sales.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant. And when it comes to changing mindsets about cricket being a sport for boys and girls … we couldn’t be happier with what the WBBL has delivered us in the first year.
“It has been one of the really great features of this season.”
Growth was always expected by Everard – he told The New Daily as much last month.
But even he has been surprised at the level of interest.
“We certainly had expectations for growth this season because we’ve had success over the last few years,” he said.
“But what has caught us by surprise is the quantum of growth this season.
“The game at the MCG on January 2 (between the Melbourne Stars and the Renegades), we had over 80,000 through the gates … there’s no way, in our wildest dreams, that we could have envisaged that this early in the competition’s development.
“The key objective for BBL this season was to position the league as the preferred form of entertainment for families in summer.
“Based on the results we have achieved, it now holds a place as families are planning their activities throughout the summer.”
That is not to say the competition thinks they have the families market cornered. In fact, Everard sees it as a key area that the Big Bash League can improve in.
“We’re already thinking about next year,” he said.
“We want to make sure that the success stays in place. There’s a risk that, if you tinker with things too much (things can go awry) … we feel there’s a lot of untapped potential as well.
“Our strategy for next year doesn’t change. It’s still all about promoting BBL as a fun night out for families and I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of families, all over Australia, who perhaps haven’t tried coming along to a game yet.
“That will be something we really focus on ahead of next season.”
Expansion – be it in terms of more games or more teams – and the potential for more availability from Australia stars like Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc is also on the agenda when Everard and his team sit down with Cricket Australia in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to give some thought to the future and what it looks like,” he added.
“Whatever plans we contemplate, it has got to relate back to our strategy of making cricket Australia’s favourite sport.
“We will sit down with Australia’s high performance team too. We want to try to come up with a solution (on player availability) that works for both BBL and international cricket.
“But we certainly respect the fact that players representing their country absolutely remains the pinnacle. The two need to go hand-in-hand.
“The BBL is not reliant on those guys (Australian stars) playing … but we would love to see them involved and when they do play in Big Bash, it certainly adds to the occasion.”
For now, though, Everard and his team can put their feet up.
The Big Bash League has well and truly arrived.