Schedule tweak fires up Big Bash
Australia's T20 stars expected to be available for entire BBL|11 season with schedule that finishes in school holidays and features more double-headers
12 July 2021, 08:39 AM AEST
The KFC BBL is set to start earlier than ever before this summer as Cricket Australia looks to wrap up the 61-game season before the end of January.
Big Bash officials are set to finalise their schedule this week, with the season expected to begin on the first weekend of December and finish inside school holidays for the first time in five years.
It's understood the tournament final will be held just days before Australia's one-day series against New Zealand begins on January 30, meaning Australia's white-ball stars like Glenn Maxwell, Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis should be available for the entire competition.
However, Australia's six-match Test season that runs from November 27 to January 18 means it's likely all-format stars such as Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitch Starc will again be unavailable for the Big Bash.
There's also expected to be a sharp increase in the number of so-called 'mega days' on the schedule, where a BBL double-header will be played at night following a day of an Ashes Test, meaning wall-to-wall cricket on the east coast from 10.30 in the morning until midnight.
The highest-rating regular season BBL game last summer was the first match of a double-header that immediately followed day one of the Boxing Day Test, while six of the nine most-watched games of BBL|10 came on the back of a day of Test cricket.
The addition of more double headers will allow the tournament to finish in January for the first time since 2017 having concluded as late as February 17 in recent years.
The expansion to a full home-and-away competition three seasons ago has meant the climax of the BBL has crept further into February and away from the summer holiday period, which is more conducive to big crowds before the school year begins.
The crowd of just 13,000 that turned up for the Challenger Final at the MCG 18 months ago, on a clear Thursday night in the first week of school term, underlined the difficulty the competition faces when it pushes beyond the holiday period.
The flow-on effect of finishing the competition in January is the earliest ever start to the season, on the first weekend of December, some three weeks before Christmas.
It will add to an already jam-packed fortnight of cricket in late November and early December that includes the final of the WBBL, Australia's historic Test match against Afghanistan and the first men's Ashes Test in Brisbane. A men's tour match between Australia A and the England Lions is also expected to be played in early December.
The BBL's 56-game regular season will return to a full home-and-away schedule having been played as a travelling caravan last summer due to the pandemic.
Final confirmation of the schedule is expected later this week. The schedule for the WBBL was announced last week, while the fixtures for the Marsh Sheffield Shield and Marsh One-Day Cup are yet to be finalised.