With every match of the KFC Big Bash League another record is broken as crowd attendances sky rocket.
With every match too, the pedigree of the tournament grows in stature with performance after performance outdoing what previously didn’t seem possible.
With every match therefore comes growing speculation over the inevitable: the make-up of Australia’s World Twenty20 squad.
Travis Head’s century, Nathan Lyon’s five-for, Andrew Tye’s slower ball – if Twitter had its way Australia would be fielding a starting line-up of at least 20 players.
One thing however, that’s noticeable beyond all else in this year’s tournament, is the frequency with which match-winning performances are coming from the old guard.
Brad Haddin’s 72 for the Sydney Sixers two weeks ago. Brad Hogg’s 1-15 against the Brisbane Heat. Brad Hodge’s unbeaten half century against the Melbourne Stars. Michael Klinger’s continued dominance with the bat both here and in England over the winter.
Quick Single: Late collapse hands Hurricanes victory
On Friday night the BBL’s veterans were at their vintage best. George Bailey, no spring chicken at the venerable age of 33 and a new father just this week, struck an unbeaten 56 off 29 to anchor the Hurricanes winning total of 163.
Clint McKay, also nearing 33, took a four-for for the Thunder. Mike Hussey almost guided the visiting side across the line with a 51-ball 71, his second half-century in his four BBL innings to date. It was enough too to elicit a few marriage proposals from the crowd. And then finally, there was the pièce de resistance, the one that got everyone talking (Shane Warne included) – Shaun Tait.
Tait, at 32 years and 313 days, was bowling close to 150kph and got the home side off to a second innings flyer – scuttling both Jacques Kallis and Shane Watson to leave the Thunder reeling on 2-1 after their first over. Tait ended the night with 3-16, with the tail-enders backing further and further away with every delivery. Tait – the ‘wild thing’ – he’s still got it.
WATCH: Tait turns back the clock
Earlier this week Angela Pippos wrote a touching homage to Hodge and the BBL’s ‘middle-aged maestros’ romanticising about the merits of the league’s older players. Twitter, doing its worst, demanded Hussey – aka Mr Cricket – be on the plane to the World T20 in India.
“I will be travelling to India, yes,” said Hussey post-match. “As a T20 batting consultant with the team. But no, I won’t be playing.”
“There are enough great players in this country,” he insisted.
WATCH: Hussey’s lone hand against Hurricanes
Last week Brad Hogg, ever the joker and about to turn 45, quipped in response to whether he was still available for national selection, “I’d love to represent my country again. That’s the pinnacle of anyone’s career.”
It was all great larks, we thought, as we tucked into another round of Christmas pudding. If Australia were getting labelled ‘Dad’s Army’ during the Ashes, imagine what a squad with Hogg might be called?
What if, however, the suggestion was taken seriously?
“There should be an over-30s versus under-30s selection match,” suggested Damien Fleming while commentating on Channel Ten. It crossed Ricky Ponting’s mind too, and can’t have been far from selector-cum-commentator Mark Waugh’s thoughts either, although he wasn’t behind the mic on Friday night.
“That’s my second home – I wouldn’t mind going back there to be honest,” said Tait to whether he fancied his chances of being on the plane to India. “It’s one of those things – I’m getting on a bit now, but I’m bowling well.
“Even last game I felt that I was charging in fast and bowling well. That’s up to the selectors – I’m just worried about the Hobart Hurricanes.”
“As I’ve got older…I’m not spraying it as much as I used to,” said Tait. “To be fair I think Twenty20 is one of those games where your experienced players, your more experienced players, do well.
“It is a fast game – you’ve got to think about it a lot. I’ve played close to 150 Twenty20s now, so there’s no excuses for us older fellows, no.”
So how about it? Why don’t we put our money where our mouth is and go all in – let the experienced campaigners loose on the world stage? Bailey, Hussey and Klinger are numbers two, three and four on the run-scoring ladder. McKay tops the wicket-takers. The statistics back them.
WATCH: McKay takes four wickets
The only afterthought to this wonderfully attractive proposition might be that the very reason that all these old boys are performing as they are is because they’ve left all the pressure of international selection behind. There’s no constant media scrutiny, expectation to perform, nor strain on the family – they’re just playing because, well, they love it. And they’re relaxed.
That last conspiracy theory aside, in fielding a side comprised entirely of under-21s for the Cricket Australia XI in last year’s Matador Cup, the selectors have shown that they’re prepared to go all out in the pursuit of one theory. So why not this one?