Changes to next summer’s JLT Cup domestic one-day tournament will see the removal of the Cricket Australia XI development team but an expansion of the finals schedule that means the side that finishes bottom of the table might still win through to claim the title.
The change, to be unveiled tomorrow, will mean the JLT Cup returns to a traditional six-team state-based format, ending a three-year trial with the CA XI which was deemed to have served its purpose by granting some of the nation’s best young talent fast-track access to top-level cricket.
CA’s Head of Cricket Operations, Peter Roach, said the fact that an increasing number of young players were being selected for their state outfits in the domestic one-day tournament means the additional team – introduced for 2015-16 – had largely achieved its aim.
Initially, the seventh side was introduced on a two-year trial and was comprised of uncapped rookies and members of the National Performance Squad, with the players chosen in consultation with state talent managers to maximise opportunities for promising youngsters unlikely to win a start in their respective first XIs.
Although the young team won just two of their 18 matches across three seasons, it did launch the careers of several players who went on to win national recognition.
Among them were Test-capped allrounder Hilton Cartwright, and members of Australia’s current T20 squad for upcoming matches against England and Zimbabwe, Mitchell Swepson and Jack Wildermuth.
However, with the Australia men’s Test team scheduled to be in the UAE to play Pakistan during this year’s JLT Cup, it has been decided that sufficient selection chances for young players should exist without a dedicated outfit in the month-long tournament.
“The reason the CA XI concept was brought in was to give an opportunity to younger players, to help advance their development and to push them hard in a very competitive cricket environment,” Roach told cricket.com.au this week.
“In some ways, it was probably also a bit of a nudge to the states to say ‘if you’re not giving game time to enough young players, then we’ll put in a team that allows them to get some real experience against some of this country’s best’.
“But over the past two years, I think a lot has changed in the development structure and the way the states have approached this issue, and not only in relation to the JLT Cup.
“So there’s a belief now that the states, through competitions like the Toyota Futures League and their talent management programs, are probably giving those younger players greater opportunities than previously might have been the case.
“As a result, the feeling (at CA) was that it was probably a good time to go back to what every other country in the world envies to some extent – that is, six really strong state teams going hard at each other in what we hope will be toughest competition outside of international cricket.
“It’s certainly not a reflection of the CA XI and what it has been able to achieve.
“This was a state-led discussion, that raised the question as to whether the idea continued to be as relevant as when the CA XI concept was introduced.”
With one fewer team in the mix for 2018-19, the tournament will adopt an expanded finals format to ensure a similar number of matches (20 for the coming summer, compared to 23 last year) and an increase in the number of ‘knockout’ fixtures to better prepare players for international limited-overs events.
Under the revised format, all six teams will take part in the finals when the 15 preliminary matches are completed.
At that point, qualifying finals will see the sixth-placed finisher meet third, and fifth play fourth in a round of qualifying finals, from where the respective winners will be drawn against the two top teams in a pair of semi-finals.
The victors will then play-off for the JLT Cup.
While the tournament, which begins in Townsville on Sunday, September 16, will also stage matches in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, the finals will be hosted by Drummoyne and North Sydney Ovals in New South Wales, and the newly redeveloped Junction Oval in Victoria - where the final will be held on Wednesday, October 10.
Roach said the decision to discontinue the CA XI’s involvement for the immediate future does not spell the end of the concept, which might be revisited down the track if circumstances changed.
The CA XI will also continue to feature at age-level in junior carnivals, as well as providing a representative presence in tour matches.