BBL draft scrapped, schedule reveals Ashes 'mega days'
Plans for an international player draft shelved again amid quarantine and border concerns with Big Bash clubs set to target players from England and Afghanistan on the back of the Test summer
14 July 2021, 02:01 PM AEST
The KFC BBL is set for an influx of English and Afghan players this summer after the proposed international player draft was scrapped for a second time due to the pandemic.
Cricket Australia today confirmed the schedule for the 11th season of the Big Bash League, which will run from December 5 until January 28, meaning it will finish inside the school holidays for the first time in five years.
Officials are hoping to leverage Australia's six-Test summer, which includes the Ashes against England and a historic first-ever Test against Afghanistan, to not only boost the international players in the BBL but also further lift television ratings after the competition attracted its biggest ever broadcast audience last season.
With the Big Bash a proven winner riding on the coattails of blockbuster Test matches – six of the nine highest-rating regular-season games last summer came after a day of Test cricket – this season's schedule will include eight 'mega days' where Test cricket during the day will be followed by a BBL double-header at night.
BBL|11 'Mega days' (all times AEDT)
Wed Dec 8: 11am – 6.30pm: First Ashes Test D1 | 6.35pm: Hurricanes v Sixers | 9.35pm: Scorchers v Heat
Sat Dec 11: 11am – 6.30pm: First Ashes Test D4 | 6.35pm: Sixers v Hurricanes | 9.30pm: Scorchers v Strikers
Sun Dec 26: 10.30am – 6pm: Third Ashes Test D1 | 6.05pm: Thunder v Sixers | 9.15pm: Scorchers v Renegades
Mon Dec 27: 10.30am – 6pm: Third Ashes Test D2 | 6.05pm: Hurricanes v Strikers | 9.05pm: Heat v Stars
Wed Dec 29: 10.30am – 6pm: Third Ashes Test D4 | 6.05pm: Sixers v Heat | 7.15pm: Renegades v Hurricanes
Wed Jan 5: 10.30am – 6pm: Fourth Ashes Test D1 | 6.05pm: Strikers v Hurricanes | 9.15pm: Scorchers v Thunder
Thu Jan 6: 10.30am – 6pm: Fourth Ashes Test D2 | 6.05pm: Renegades v Heat | 9.15pm: Scorchers v Sixers
Sat Jan 8: 10.30am – 6pm: Fourth Ashes Test D4 | 6.05pm: Renegades v Thunder | 8.30pm: Heat v Hurricanes
A shorter season has also led to a scheduling clash where seven BBL games are slated to be played at the same time as an Ashes Test – two during the day-night Test in Adelaide, and five during the fifth Test in Perth, where play finishes at 8.30pm on the east coast.
The early finish, before the start of Australia's ODIs against New Zealand, means white-ball stars like Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Josh Philippe should be available for the entire tournament, as they were last season
The presence of England and Afghan players in Australia for international cricket will also help fill out the international rosters of BBL clubs, with the league facing a challenge to attract overseas talent given the ongoing border restrictions and quarantine requirements.
Afghan players like Rashid Khan should be free for the entire BBL following their Test match in Hobart, while the likelihood of an extended England squad to help Ashes preparations means there should be plenty of English players in the country and free to play the BBL once the Tests get underway.
Australia's strict quarantine requirements and slow vaccine rollout has already led to the postponement of the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, while the Australian Open tennis in January is also no certainty to go ahead.
Alistair Dobson, Cricket Australia's head of the Big Bash, concedes the quarantine requirements may scare off some international players and that the complications around travel was behind the decision to postpone the international draft for another 12 months.
"Some players won't be up for it, and we totally respect that and understand that it's been an incredible challenge," Dobson told cricket.com.au of the quarantine requirements.
"It isn't getting any easier and at this point, everyone needs clarity and certainty around the contracting landscape. So we've made the decision to postpone (the draft) for another year, with the intention of bringing it in when – fingers crossed – the landscape is clearer and we can give what we think is a great idea the best chance to be successful.
"Last year we saw a great group of English players playing in the BBL and the fact their team's coming out anyway, we hope that might make things simpler and more straight forward. Having those two national sides in the country gives us a chance to work more closely with those players."
Dobson is also confident the BBL's clash with Ashes cricket won't detract from the competition and says broadcasters Seven and Foxtel are on board with showing two matches on different channels at the same time.
The opening three days of the day-night Adelaide Test on December 16, 17 and 18 will be Big Bash free, but BBL matches have been scheduled for nights four and five.
There was scheduled to be a similar clash two seasons ago, but it never eventuated when the day-night Test between Australia and Sri Lanka in Brisbane finished inside three days. And given four of the five previous day-night Tests at the Adelaide Oval have finished before the fourth evening, there's every chance that scenario could play out again.
But there's certain to be a clash for the fifth Test in Perth in mid-January, with BBL games on the east coast scheduled to start around an hour before stumps in the Test match.
There will also be BBL matches running concurrently on December 29 and January 8.
Dobson says a desire to fit as much of the season into the favourable school-holiday period as possible means a scheduling clash is almost inevitable.
"(The clash with the Ashes) is a combination of having to play 56 games in that (school holiday) window but also wanting to optimise every single minute of the summer. If a day's play finishes early in a Test or a Test finishes early, the Big Bash is there to keep people excited about cricket," Dobson said.
"Also, the fans of each BBL club will be able to go to the matches. It's not just about overlaps of games on TV … it's about making sure that fans can get to the games. It doesn't matter if there's two games going on at once when the fans at the games can still take in that experience.
"We know that the BBL is at its strongest when there's really strong Test cricket during the day and the BBL at night. We know that any BBL after a day's play of Test cricket has a bump (in TV ratings) compared to a non-Test day. The double-headers just take advantage of that even more, and they allow us to complete the 56 games within the right window for the competition.
"(The broadcasters) are really innovative and prepared to explore new times slots and new scheduling options, whether that's double headers or overlapping matches or triple headers.
"They're really involved (in the creation of the schedule) … and often a lot of these ideas come from our broadcasters, who want to try new things and continually test how we make sure the Big Bash is as big as it can be."
BBL|11 will begin with a clash between the Sydney Sixers and the Melbourne Stars at the SCG on December 5, with a Christmas Eve match between the Hurricanes and Stars in Hobart to be the last of 19 matches before Christmas.
Twenty-two games will then follow in the two weeks after Christmas, including eight double-headers, while finals spots will be decided with a triple-header on Wednesday January 19, the last day of the regular season, featuring games in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
The five-game finals series will be held in the space of the week, with the grand final to be played on a Friday night for the first time.
A total of 14 venues will be used, including a return to Geelong and Coffs Harbour, while a BBL match will be played at Junction Oval in Melbourne for the first time.
Forty-five matches, including finals, will be shown on the Seven Network while all 61 games will be broadcast on Fox Cricket, Kayo Sports and SEN radio.
The schedule returns to a full home-and-away structure after it was played in a bubble last season due to the pandemic, but the location of matches will be determined by medical advice and border closures at the time.