BBL confirms Victoria hub to combat COVID outbreak
All teams to be relocated to Melbourne as league rejigs schedule with a majority of matches next week to be played in Victoria
8 January 2022, 12:00 PM AEST
The Big Bash League has confirmed the move to a Victorian hub with all clubs to relocate to Melbourne in a bid to combat the COVID-19 outbreaks that have run rampant through teams.
A revised schedule from January 10-16 will see seven of the 11 scheduled matches played in Victoria, however some key games will still be played interstate, with teams to fly in and out on charter flights.
Those interstate games include the Sydney derby between the Sixers and Thunder at the SCG on January 15 (with a revised start time of 6:40pm AEDT), and Brisbane hosting Adelaide at the Gabba on January 12.
The Heat, however, may not have the bulk of their first-choice XI available for that match against the Strikers after the virus swept through their camp this week with 12 positive cases, and they were forced to debut eight players on Thursday night against the Renegades in Geelong.
The Sixers' table-topping game against the Perth Scorchers in Coffs Harbour on January 9 will go ahead as scheduled, with both teams currently on the Gold Coast.
The Sixers on Thursday became the seventh of the eight Big Bash clubs to be hit by the virus, with four members of their touring party forced to isolate after testing positive.
The Adelaide Strikers – the only team yet to have a COVID-positive case – will host two games that will start in the morning (10:10am ACDT on Jan 14 and 15) and act as a curtain-raiser for the pink-ball Ashes Test in Hobart.
All clubs are progressively relocating their players and support staff to Victoria and although BBL officials have been careful to avoid calling it a 'hub' or 'bubble', the clubs will remain under biosecurity protocols until the season is completed.
While Victoria has today recorded more than 83,000 active cases of COVID-19, having all teams based in one city will allow organisers to swap the order of games at the last minute if required, as was done on the Gold Coast on Tuesday after the outbreak in the Heat camp.
In a statement, the League said confirmation of the remaining regular season matches - including the postponed Heat-Sixers clash from January 5 - should be expected in 'the coming days'.
The Hurricanes' January 17 clash with the Melbourne Renegades - currently scheduled for Blundstone Arena - will be moved to a different venue due to the fifth Ashes Test being played in Hobart.
Dates for the five-game finals series currently remain unchanged, but it’s unclear if clubs that earn hosting rights will be able to play in front of home fans.
The final is scheduled to be played on January 28 and given the tight nature of the international and domestic calendar – Australia's ODI series against New Zealand is slated to start just two days after the Big Bash final – extending the BBL season beyond the current timeframe would create further scheduling complications.
The rejigged fixture means Marvel Stadium, the MCG and Geelong's GMHBA Stadium will each host an extra game apiece in the coming week.
There will now be a double-header of games in Geelong on January 11, starting with the Melbourne Stars' postponed match against the Scorchers, before the originally scheduled Renegades-Sixers clash.
That Stars-Scorchers game was postponed on December 30 and marked the arrival of COVID into BBL clubs. The Stars have so far returned 13 positive cases, the bulk of which were due out of isolation on Thursday, although a trio – including captain Glenn Maxwell and English batter Joe Clarke – remain in isolation.
Needing to catch-up two postponed games, the Stars will play five times in seven days, including back-to-back matches on Jan 10-11 and Jan 15-16.
Launceston has lost a match with the Hurricanes' game against the Thunder (Jan 10) moving to the MCG.
While the Thunder will still play the January 15 derby against the Sixers at the SCG, their Showgrounds Stadium game against Hobart (January 13) has been moved to Melbourne.
"The past week has thrown many COVID-related challenges the Big Bash’s way, but throughout we have remained steadfast in our resolve to safely and successfully complete the season," said Alistair Dobson, Cricket Australia's General Manager of Big Bash Leagues.
"These changes are designed to help the League and Clubs deliver on this, while also reducing risks to players, support staff and the matches themselves. Having our players based in one state provides significantly greater flexibility to manage any further impacts of COVID-19.
"From challenges also comes opportunity and we are excited by the prospect of some huge double header matchdays in Geelong and Melbourne. We also look forward to retaining matches in Adelaide, Brisbane and the January 15 Derby in Sydney and seeing home fans turning out for these games.
"We thank everyone who continues to work so hard behind the scenes to safely deliver the competition including all players, League and Club staff, match officials, governments, broadcasters, partners, and venues."
Meanwhile the final remaining WNCL match for this month has also been postponed, with ACT unable to field a team against NSW.
It makes for a fifth game postponed this weekend, with Australia's women's stars struggling to get any game time before this month's Ashes.