Organisers of Australia’s Big Bash League have gone back to backyard basics when it comes to choosing which team will take first turn at bat, and appropriately, the bat itself is front and centre of their aim to make cricket ‘more relevant to families’.
Out goes the coin toss, and in comes the bat flip, with the home captain doing the flipping. The visiting skipper has to call either ‘hills’ or ‘roofs’ (if she or he is banking on the back of the bat facing up when it lands) or ‘flats’.
While at first glance the decision might seem a bit odd or even a bit juvenile, it does speak to the heart of cricket. For decades kids playing pickup games in parks or playgrounds around the globe have flipped the bat to decide who will bat first. Depicting this, there’s a painting at Lord’s called Tossing for Innings by Robert James, which is one of the more famous of the many hundreds of thousands of pictures applied to canvas about the ‘gentleman’s game’.
This will, however, be the first time the bat flip has been used in professional cricket.
Instead of heads or tails, captains will now call ‘hills’ or ‘roofs’ and ‘flats’ to decide the course of play in the eighth edition of the tournament, starting on 19 December. The single proviso is that the bat must make at least one full rotation, but you can expect some swashbuckling bat flipping to live up to the excitement of the Big Bash.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 11, 2018
Former Aussie legendary paceman Mitchell Johnson tweeted his concern about the change.
‘I’m guessing sponsors will be plastered all over the bat. What next, one hand one bounce, electric wickie, 6 & out, unless hit out of the stadium!! Let’s worry about game development & other important things that matter. Is the baggy green top priority these days?’
‘For me, it’s a great moment which reflects what BBL is about,’ said Kim McConnie, Cricket Australia’s head of the Big Bash League.
‘Some people don’t like change, but I’d also challenge people to say when was the last time anyone watched the coin toss or really focused on it to a great extent. Now we are making it much more relevant to families – we are creating a moment which is much more fitting with kids,’ added McConnie.
The recent record of certain Australians with sandpaper in hand could perhaps offer an area for teams to tamper with the bat, perhaps sanding one side more than the others to affect the flight of the bat, but McConnie has assured fans that the toss of bat (which has been designed and manufactured by Kookaburra) will be free of sandpaper and a 100% fair toss.
‘I’ve got it from great authority at our Kookaburra friends that this is a tested and weighted bat to deliver that equity.’
Kookaburra were tasked with creating a bat that was of ‘symmetrical weight’ to ensure a fair toss.
‘While Lachie is used to making custom bats with all sorts of requests for Usman Khawaja, Tim Paine and Alyssa Healy, this was quite a left-field challenge,’ said Shannon Gill, Kookaburra’s head of communications.
‘Lachie has done the job, though, and Kookaburra is excited to be part of a concept that will stir childhood memories of cricket in the backyard, schoolyard or on the beach.’
Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images