Gillespie warns of following IPL format

Strikers coach questions the logic of extending tournament to include full home-and-away fixtures

Andrew Ramsey Adelaide

1 February 2018, 07:30 AM AEST

Adelaide Strikers coach Jason Gillespie has cautioned Australia cricket administrators against adding additional matches to the KFC Big Bash League to the point where it replicates the world's lengthiest T20 franchise competition, the Indian Premier League.

Cricket Australia has foreshadowed the likelihood of expanding the tournament's format to include a full home-and-away fixture of 56 preliminary matches, possibly as soon as next summer.

With the retention of the three-game finals series, that would stretch the BBL season to 59 matches which is just one shy of the IPL calendar that is yet to be finalised for 2018, but which last year spanned almost seven weeks from early April until late May.

The current iteration of the BBL (its seventh) was the first to feature 43 matches, an increase on the previous tournament's 35, and has stretched a similar period to the IPL having begun on December 19 last year and culminating in this Sunday's final at a venue to be decided.

Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland told cricket.com.au last September that while CA is not currently eyeing an expansion of the competition beyond eight franchises, the more likely avenue for growth would be to emulate the IPL and move to a full home-and-away schedule.

Sutherland confirmed that view today and suggested the expanded program could be adopted as soon as next summer, with the possibility of 59 BBL matches featuring in discussions with potential broadcasters as CA continues negotiations over its next broadcast rights agreement.

"The extent to which we're looking to expand is the full home-and-away (schedule)," Sutherland told Melbourne radio station SEN's Gerard Whateley today.

"There's lots of interest in expanding the number of teams but we're nowhere near that.

"First things first, we want to look at getting to a full home-and-away model and we believe that in the (current) window that's sustainable.

"That's certainly the discussions that we're having with broadcasters and other commercial partners, and indeed the players, is with a view to the full home and away (program).

"We'll obviously take everyone's views into context and there are different views, and I think people have had different feelings throughout the season.

"But as we get to the end of this period and we start to plan for next season, we need to start to form a pretty clear view and press the button on that at some stage in the next few months."

Some unbelievable catches from the BBL

Sutherland cited the concerns aired by some BBL players, including ex-West Indies Test allrounder and Melbourne Renegades star Dwayne Bravo, that the BBL|07 featured some prolonged gaps between matches for some franchises.

An anomaly that would be overcome with each team playing one another at home and away.

But he added that the current seven-week window for matches would not be markedly increased despite an addition in matches of more than 37 per cent, and CA was also mindful of allowing the competition's finals series "a bit more clear air and maybe slowing the tournament down".

That might require ensuring the home international summer has been wholly completed before the BBL enters its play-off stage, unlike previous summers when finals have clashed with T20 International commitments.

While the issue of squeezing more matches into a similar seven-week time frame could also entail a far greater number of 'double-header' fixtures as was the case on six days this summer (and more than twice as regularly during the most recent IPL season).

But Gillespie, who will lead the Strikers into Friday night's sudden-death final against the Renegades at Adelaide Oval before taking up the head coach role at Sussex in the UK county competition, believes CA should be wary of duplicating the IPL formula.

"I think the (current BBL) tournament is fantastic, but can we play more games?" Gillespie said today.

"I think everyone agrees that it wouldn't want to go as long as the IPL.

"I think the IPL is about two months – that's a long time for a domestic tournament, let alone a T20 tournament.

"But that's for the administrators to decide."

Sutherland also reiterated that CA was looking to re-schedule the Rebel Women's BBL into a standalone window, possibly at the start of summer to allow it to further grow its profile away from the concurrent men's T20 tournament and "thrive under its own spotlight".

As foreshadowed last September, that could mean the WBBL becomes an evening broadcast drawcard during the period prior to the men's international season beginning and staged alongside the domestic JLT One-Day Series that is played as daytime fixtures.

Adelaide Strikers coach Andrea McCauley said today that the growing popularity of the WBBL – as shown by venue attendances, Channel Ten's broadcast ratings and live streaming numbers through cricket.com.au – showed there was sufficient public interest to sustain a standalone competition.

"I think actually the female's game is increasing with their number of viewers and the boys are falling off a bit, so that's a sign," McCauley said.

"I'm not saying that we're going in front of (the men's game) but stay tuned, we'll get there."