Big Bash to take show on the road with T20 festival
Have bat will travel! A 150-player strong 'village' of the best T20 cricketers, international player windows and marquee player recruitment drive to spark BBL|10
5 September 2020, 06:53 PM AEST
The tenth season of the KFC BBL will be a travelling festival of cricket played in blocks around the country, as Cricket Australia works to recruit leading international players from Australia and overseas to feature in the tournament.
The Rebel WBBL will be played entirely in Sydney in a five-week block from October 25, but the BBL is set to take the show on the road this summer with eight clubs and some 150 players travelling together in a rolling biosecurity bubble, Cricket Australia's Head of Big Bash Leagues Alastair Dobson confirmed.
Dobson said work was being done to find windows to allow Australia's international stars to link up with their BBL clubs, as well as an ambitious recruitment drive for marquee talent from overseas.
"From a scheduling point of view, we're looking to find windows where players can come out of the national set-up and into the BBL," Dobson told cricket.com.au.
"That's a key part of where we are up to at the moment. We've got a reasonable idea of where it's going to land holistically, now we're just trying to optimise those things."
A potential window could be created if, as has been reported by various media outlets, India's tour begins with white-ball matches, and the Chappell-Hadlee series with New Zealand – currently scheduled for late January – is moved to after the BBL Finals.
That could pave the way for Australia's white-ball stars such as Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and reigning Player of the Tournament Marcus Stoinis to play the majority of the BBL season, including finals, before returning to an Australia bubble.
"Some of the Australian white-ball players are iconic BBL players and really passionate about their BBL teams, as are their fans about them," said Dobson. "That's really important.
"Equally, our national players have got a tough schedule ahead in terms of multiple quarantines and unique environments, and it goes without saying that managing the health and wellbeing of our players is another consideration, albeit we know they love playing in the BBL."
Australia's three-format star Pat Cummins, who will play in the IPL after the current tour of England, said he was keeping an open mind about this summer's BBL competition.
"This summer is going to have a lot more challenges than perhaps in the past, but I'm not going to rule it out, we'll see how it all comes together," Cummins said today from Southampton.
"It's going to be busy, it's going to be hard, but it's a great competition. Us Aussie guys, we love playing in it, and speaking to the English guys here they really want to have a crack at it, as they always do."
While nightly BBL action across the summer school holidays has become part of the fabric of the Australian summer, this season’s action will be concentrated in blocks at one location at a time.
"The BBL is known for bouncing around the country every night but the reality is this year that's not possible," Dobson explained.
"Travel is one of the more risky things (in a pandemic), so trying to minimise that is important.
"Playing blocks of games in different cities across the course of the season is the way (this season) will look.
"(That gives us) the ability to create unique festivals in each city rather than the BBL coming in a night at a time.
"To come in for a more extended time with eight teams and 150-odd of the world's best T20 players in a city at a time has got some really interesting opportunities."
A key challenge of this model will be ensuring the pitches remain up to standard for the high-scoring T20 format. The BBL came in for criticism for sub-standard pitches that negated high scoring two summers ago, and CA is keen to build on the positive work done last season.
"Last season scores were up and it was a real focus across our clubs and venues. That's going to be more important than ever this year," Dobson said.
"It will influence scheduling to a degree in terms of where we go and how long we can stay. We do have to keep on the move a bit … and we're working really closely with our group of curators to understand what the capacity is and how hard we can push those boundaries."
Dobson was tight-lipped on mooted changes to the BBL's playing conditions, which are set to be announced later this month, while also teasing some "really big name" international signings in the works.
"The league and our clubs are really ambitious and optimistic in terms of recruiting the biggest names we can," Dobson said.
"Australia's a really attractive place to be in right now in terms of the world. On that front we're really optimistic, but at the same time it's pretty uncharted waters right … we're ambitious but realistic."
CA's plan to create "villages" for the rolling BBL bubble could help lure overseas stars. Rather than just sterile hotel rooms, Dobson's team are intent on creating a more communal atmosphere within the confines of the biosecurity protocols.
"To be able to create little environments within that (accommodation bubble), be that recreation areas in the village, or opportunities where possible to get out and experience different things," Dobson said.
"That said, lots of cricket will be being played, so they're going to be pretty busy between playing, recovering and training, but when you think of the experience Olympians have when they're in a village, that's something we'd like to aspire to, to make sure the players come away with fond memories of this coming season and not necessarily feeling like they were locked up and caged."
Activities for players to carefully vetted and screened locations, all while maintaining the biosecurity measures, are part of the "village" plan, as well as communal recreation spaces and games areas.
"It's all overlayed with being as safe and secure as we can (and) they're little things but I reckon they'll add up to creating memorable experiences, as opposed to players thinking they'll just be sitting in the hotel room between games," Dobson said.