Flippin ‘eck - what’s going on Down Under?

Innovator?: Cricket Australia's Kim McConnie. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Innovator?: Cricket Australia's Kim McConnie. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
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“HILLS or flats, mate?”

“Hills.”

“Sorry, mate, it’s flats.”

Wondering what I’m going on about?

You would not be the first.

I am referring, however, to the decision to dispense with the coin toss in the Australian Big Bash League, the latest gimmick in a game that is changing faster than you can say “100-ball cricket is a waste of space”.

Instead of “heads or tails?”, the traditional enquiry before we discover which team bats or bowls, the question now is “hills or flats?”, or “roofs or flats?”, as a specially-designed bat is hurled into the air for the benefit of halfwits.

If the bat rests on its flat side as it falls to earth, “hills” or “roofs” wins the day, and vice-versa.

This so-called “bat flip”, which has been proceeding Down Under these past few weeks, is designed to make the “toss” more of a spectacle, particularly to those children whose match-day experience would presumably otherwise be wrecked by the archaic sight of the toss of a coin.

But Kim McConnie, Cricket Australia’s head of the Big Bash League, is a staunch advocate of an innovation that she believes is “a great moment which reflects what BBL is about”.

“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?” she said.

“Now we are making it much more relevant to families, we are creating a moment which is much more fitting with kids.

“You’d be surprised at the science that’s gone into this. It is a specially weighted bat to make sure that it is 50-50 (when the bat lands on the ground), and I’ve got it from great authority from our Kookaburra friends that this is a tested and weighted bat to deliver that equity.”

McConnie, who speaks of generating “fan tribalism” and “building strength in the metro markets”, is clearly no slouch when it comes to the science of bat-flipping.

But has it really added anything to the Big Bash League or the game in general?

Has it really grabbed the kids’ attention and sent them rushing through the turnstiles?

If anything, the Big Bash has steadily lost its edge, with too many matches sapping interest and with the quality of pitches an increasing concern.

Fewer big names are clamouring to take part, and, by common consent, the standard of cricket has steadily deteriorated.

The bat-flip innovation, which follows previous BBL gimmicks such as zing bails and player microphones, looks like a desperate effort to spice up a curry that has gradually lost its spice, a warning, in fact, to the England and Wales Cricket Board ahead of its 100-ball tournament starting next year.

Even on Twitter, where folk are prone to going wild over the slightest little thing, like a video of a pet dog wagging its tail in front of an owner delirious with excitement, the bat-flip has met with a negative response, which suggests that it neither appeals to the social media generation nor those who still think that Twitter is something to do with the high-pitched calls or sounds of a bird.

Indeed, one tweeter declared: “Big Bash Head should Resign Asap.. She has Ruined The Tournament for me.. Bat Flip is joke.. Don’t think its (sic) gonna Attract more people.. No”

Although that user clearly has some issues with the correct deployment of capital letters, and so on, the sentiment is typical.

Other random comments plucked off the Twittersphere read… “Mahn (sic) doing the bat flip instead of a coin toss is the dumbest idea ever. Making a huge joke of the BBL here. Like they’re playing in a village or something”...

“A bat flip?! Are they having a laugh? Thank **** I have lost interest in this sport!”...

And, “If it’s not broke don’t fix it. This #batflip in the big bash looks ******* daft.”

Quite.

Nor is McConnie’s salivation over “the science that’s gone into this” seemingly justified.

Indeed, there was a slight snag when Perth Scorchers took on Adelaide Strikers at Optus Stadium the other day when the bat landed on its side, as opposed to on its hilly or flat part, causing a second bat flip.

“Anyone seen a coin do that?” tweeted one indignant spectator, adding the words, “Toss a bloody coin!”

Another malcontent suggested, “Toss a credit card”, although it is perhaps unwise to give the administrators too many bright ideas, for fear that they might implement them too.

Indeed, it can only be a matter of time before some bright spark decides that it would be a bonzer idea to “toss the umpire”, whereby a side wins the toss depending on whether the umpire lands on his head or on his backside, a concept that would certainly satisfy McConnie’s desire for the toss to become more of a spectacle.

Come to think of it, it’s probably just as well that dear old Dickie hung up his white coat when he did.

For, increasingly, the sport is being run by those who should rightly be whisked off by the men in white coats.