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Stars' return shows BBL's flexibility: Bailey

Hurricanes skipper says the presence of Head, Carey and Short in the domestic decider should set a new precedent

Andrew Ramsey in Adelaide

3 February 2018, 08:49 PM AEST

The availability and willingness of three key players to turn out in the KFC Big Bash Final less than 24 hours after their Australia outfit has completed an international fixture shows there is scope to further tighten the domestic T20 schedule, according to Hobart Hurricanes skipper George Bailey.

Today's decision by Cricket Australia to release Hobart's powerhouse opener D'Arcy Short and key Adelaide Strikers pair Travis Head and Alex Carey means tomorrow's tournament play-off at Adelaide Oval will feature two teams almost at full strength.

Debate has intensified in recent weeks about the scheduling conflict that sees the Gillette T20I tri-series (also featuring New Zealand and England) begin at the same time as BBL|07 reaches its climax.

Which has meant a number of the domestic tournament's best players have been lost to their franchises as a result of international commitments.

But while the decision to release Short, Head and Carey to fly to Adelaide tomorrow morning (after tonight's T20I against the Black Caps) quells some of the disquiet around the scheduling clash, it also indicates that players are able to cram more 20-over matches into a short period, Bailey claimed.

The former Test batter, who also captained Australia in 29 ODIs and 28 T20 Internationals between 2012 and 2015, said today the fact that players can turn out for two top-level matches staged in separate cities within a day indicates the BBL program carries scope for further tightening.

Which will be required if – as Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland has previously foreshadowed – the competition potentially moves to a full home-and-away schedule of 59 matches (compared to the current 43) as soon as next summer when a new broadcast rights deal is in place.

"I think showing that some of these guys can play an international game tonight and then step up and play tomorrow, that probably says there are some big gaps (in the current BBL program)," Bailey said today ahead of tomorrow's final, which starts at 4pm Adelaide time.

"I think nearly every team has had an eight or nine-day gap in this tournament, which is actually pretty hard to get your head around.

"It's a game where momentum is really important, and when you have to be stopping for a week, it can be difficult.

"So no doubt a few back-to-back games and double-headers (would be ideal under an expanded program)."

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The possible shift of the Rebel Women's BBL to a standalone window earlier in the Australian summer (as also mooted by Sutherland) could open the way for the BBL to stage early afternoon matches on weekends, meaning more double and possibly triple-header fixtures across the nation.

However, a 37 per cent increase in BBL matches fitted within the current seven-week tournament window in future seasons might not solve the current dilemma of players being lost to the competition when an opportunity arises to represent their country.

Both Bailey and the Strikers' occasional skipper Colin Ingram, who has taken the leadership baton on the occasions when Head has been called up for ODI and T20I teams, supported the decision to release the Australia trio to ensure the BBL|07 showpiece features its biggest names.

Even if the Strikers will be without their two leading wicket-takers of the tournament – fast bowler Billy Stanlake, who was not offered the chance to return given the reticence to overwork young quicks, and leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who is required for national duties with Afghanistan.

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"I think someone should have hid his passport away, to be honest," Ingram joked before noting that substitute leg-spinner Liam O'Connor has been preparing for this contingency as the Strikers have long known Rashid would be unavailable should they reach the final.

"He (Rashid) has been a great contributor for us this season and a great energy around the group, he's a really likeable character and a whole-hearted cricketer.

"It is sad to see him go but hopefully he'll be back soon and we wish him well."

As the leading scorer of BBL|07, Short's return is a significant coup for the Hurricanes even though they posted the highest total of the tournament (210) in last Thursday's semi-final win over the Perth Scorchers at Optus Stadium when Short was unavailable.

As a result, Bailey indicated today that he was reluctant to move former Test keeper Matthew Wade – player of the match in the Hurricanes semi-final win with 71 from 45 balls – away from opening  when Short returns, which suggests current Test gloveman Tim Paine might slide down the order.

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Bailey was also unsure whether the Hurricanes would follow Adelaide's likely lead and include their own leg-spinner Cameron Boyce in the starting XI, while the Strikers will dispense with the services of rookie keeper Harry Nielsen given the return of their best-performed batter, Carey.

"You just want your best players playing, I think it's great for both teams and great for the tournament in general," Bailey said today of the decision to allow the Australia players to return for tomorrow's final before they rejoin the T20 squad in Hobart on Monday.

"As fans, and as players if you're going to be winning a tournament we want to be winning against the absolute best and you want to be playing in the best possible team that you can.

"So it's been a great compromise."