JASON GILLESPIE believes English cricket needs to have “some really good conversations” about how to maximise the impact of Twenty20 in this country as he experiences for himself the extraordinary success of the Australian Big Bash League.
The Yorkshire first-team coach is relishing his first taste of BBL in his secondary role as coach of Adelaide Strikers, who would confirm top spot in the points table if they win their remaining two games at home to Hobart Hurricanes tomorrow and away to Melbourne Renegades on Monday.
Gillespie, whose side would also guarantee a home semi-final with victory tomorrow, is perfectly placed to contrast the Big Bash with England’s T20 Blast, and although he is a big fan of the English tournament, he feels our T20 must keep pace with the fast-changing nature of cricket today.
“Cricket is changing, there’s no doubt about that,” the former fast bowler told The Yorkshire Post.
“As a sport, we’ve got to adapt, and in Australia the fans are voting with their feet – that’s the reality.
“The Big Bash is unbelievable – different gravy – and as much as I love the T20 Blast, I think there’s a general consensus that it can be even better than it is already.
“Everyone, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the counties, need to have some really good conversations going forward to find a way to make the most out of T20 in England, and then I’m sure it will go from strength to strength.”
Gillespie, whose Strikers’ side are confounding bookmakers’ predictions of a mediocre campaign, does not profess to have all the answers.
He believes it too simplistic for England to look at the Australian model and say that our T20 should be just like that, pointing out that there are various differences such as climate, demographics and even ground capacity (more than 80,000 watched the recent Melbourne derby between Renegades and Stars).
“There’s a bit of a conundrum in England because English cricket is more decentralised than it is in Australia,” said Gillespie.
“In Australia, 90 per cent of the population live in the major cities, and there are fewer teams.
“They’re two completely different markets in many respects.
“From what I’ve seen, the six-week window for the Big Bash is pretty special, and people really do enjoy it.
“In the UK, the tournament is spread out, which makes it harder for big-name players to commit over a long period, but if you have it in a set window as it is in Australia, and you have a bad couple of weeks of weather, the tournament’s cooked.
“I look at it from Yorkshire’s point of view, and Friday night T20 cricket, spread out over several weeks, is great for us.
“Starting at 7pm, it creates a bit of a buzz, a bit of a feel about the place, and our crowds have been up quite a bit as a result.
“At the end of the day, there are arguments on all sides.
“What you don’t want to do, though, is make snap decisions based on the success of another tournament on the other side of the world in a different climate.”
Gillespie’s personal preference is for some type of English Premier League.
It is a view widely shared by the players in this country, who enjoy the T20 Blast but find it unwieldy with 18 sides, and who would prefer to have more big name stars against whom they can compete.
“I think an EPL-style tournament would be brilliant, but I’m not quite sure what it would look like,” said Gillespie.
“I’m not sure how it would capture the audiences, which would be key, and we must also remember that some of the T20 Finals Days that we have seen produce some of the best T20 cricket that you will see in the world.
“Whether we go down the franchise route and have fewer teams for T20, I don’t know, or you could even have two divisions like we do in the County Championship, with promotion and relegation.
“But T20 was invented in England and I’ve no doubt there is a big market for it in the UK.”
Gillespie, whose two-year deal with Adelaide is seen by Yorkshire as a great way of improving their own T20 performance, which has traditionally been underwhelming, has evidently brought a touch of magic to his native Adelaide.
Strikers have won five of their six games, with Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid the standout bowler with 12 wickets at 13.41.
“We’re ticking along nicely,” said Gillespie. “Seeing our ground full for each and every game we’ve played has been pretty special, and we’ve been brilliantly led by captain Brad Hodge (the former Australia batsman).
“He communicates brilliantly with the players and they all look up to him.
“He’s been a bit of an idol for some of them growing up.”