Cricket Australia has announced an overhaul of its domestic scheduling, with fans set to enjoy a brand new structure in all three forms of the game.
The revamped model sees the RYOBI One-Day Cup kick-off the season, before the Bupa Sheffield Shield and KFC T20 Big Bash League take centre stage.
In its 44th season, Australia’s premium domestic 50-over competition will be played in one continuous block, commencing 29 September and finishing 27 October.
The new format will fit 20 regular season matches into a four week period, as opposed to last year’s campaign, which lasted 165 days.
The tighter model is designed to replicate the Cricket World Cup’s carnival-like format and sees each team play six matches, as opposed to the eight game schedule from 2012/13.
QUICK SINGLE: Full fixture information
The top ranked side will go straight through to the final, while teams two and three will play off for the other spot.
The RYOBI Cup is a chance for players to stake their limited-overs claim as Australia continues to develop a squad that will challenge for World Cup victory in 2015.
Arguably the most significant change for fans is the decision to broadcast the competition on free to air television.
After a lengthy hiatus, domestic limited-overs cricket returns to the Nine Network, and will be shown live and on HD via Channel GEM.
Cricket Australia Chief Executive, James Sutherland, sees the new competition as a building block for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
“The success of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup and one-day cricket more generally is a priority for Cricket Australia.
"These changes to RYOBI Cup show that we’re supporting the 50-over format to ensure cricket continues to have three viable formats of the game at the elite level.”
The tournament style approach allows players to focus on one competition at a time, rather than the stop-start preparations of years gone by.
Tickets will be available at the gate and will be $10 for adults, while entry is free for anyone 18 years and younger.
Where’s this all happening?
In a major coup for cricket in NSW, all matches will be played in the Sydney region.
The 20 matches will take place at Bankstown Oval, North Sydney Oval, Hurstville Oval, Drummoyne Oval and Blacktown International Sportspark.
The 14 matches at Bankstown and North Sydney Oval, plus the final, will be telecast live and in HD via the Nine Network’s Channel GEM, while fans are encouraged to take advantage of the terrific deals at the other venues.
The five stadia have been used by the NSW Blues in the past, and are sure to produce entertaining cricket.
North Sydney, in particular, has provided exhilarating action between the Blues and the Victoria Bushrangers over the years.
The localised format will encourage teams to promote the game in Australia’s largest state.
When not in camp, players will be able to attend cricket carnivals across the state to celebrate the sport with its future stars.
Suburban grounds are set to attract strong crowds, especially during the school holidays. The timing of the RYOBI Cup also coincides with the start of the junior competitions across the state.
Importantly, no area of Sydney has been ignored. Bankstown and Blacktown accommodate fans in the west, Hurstville caters for the south, Drummoyne looks after inner-city followers, while North Sydney is fairly self-explanatory.
The smaller grounds will allow fans to get up close to their favourite players and create a great atmosphere, while the boutique nature of the stadia will encourage families to come along and enjoy a day in the sun.
A fine glance
The 2013/14 season promises to be one of the tightest on record.
Last year’s sixth placed side – the Western Warriors – will be keen to build on their strong finish under the guidance of coach Justin Langer.
They won two of their last three matches, including a 110 run victory against eventual champions Queensland Bulls.
The Tasmanian Tigers will look to bounce back from their under-performing 2012/13 season.
The perennial finalists only managed three wins due to their inability to consistently see out the 50 overs.
In fact, they were bowled out in four of their seven matches last season.
Their all-rounders hold the key to success this year.
The NSW Blues were unlucky in a sense, with the bulk of their squad injured or missing on international duty.
They currently have seven players with Cricket Australia contracts, including recent signing Nathan Lyon.
The Blues will hope Nic Maddinson and Gurinder Sandhu bring their impressive Australia A form back to Australia.
Home ground advantage could be crucial, with every match set to take place in Sydney.
The Redbacks looked certain to make the final, until they lost their last three matches to miss out by a solitary point.
Kane Richardson was their star player, finishing the competition with 21 wickets from six appearances.
Phil Hughes was phenomenal with the bat, averaging 80.75 from his five matches.
Up-and-comer Adam Zampa joins the experienced Andrew McDonald as replacements for the departing Dan Christian and Lyon.
After dropping their opening match, the Bushrangers exploded into form with four scores of 300+ on the trot.
Aaron Finch was the catalyst behind their success, scoring a tournament topping 504 runs at 84.
David Hussey wasn’t bad either, adding 355 at 71.
They have a quality pace attack, which will be well supported by Fawad Ahmed.
Christian was hot and cold last year, but looms as the wildcard in 2013/14.
After losing their first two matches by 190 runs and nine wickets respectively, most people were quick to put a line through the Bulls.
However, a series of plucky victories saw them make the final, despite having the worst net run-rate in the competition.
They looked dead and buried against the Bushrangers, having posted just 146 in a rain-affected match.
Entering the final over, Victoria seemed home and hosed, that was until Ryan Harris removed Clint McKay and Ahmed to seal a remarkable win.
They have lost their coach to the national side, but have a wealth of young talent to call upon.
Joe Burns and Alister McDermott are the men to watch, while Luke Pomersbach is sure to bring the heat.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 20 September, 2013 11:42AM AEDT