06 Nov

Cricket Australia’s (CA) first summer in the COVID-19 era will be used to trial Big Bash League (BBL) innovations for the post-pandemic world, but it may not be enough to placate its host free-to-air broadcaster.

The BBL schedule released on Thursday (5 November) revealed an Australia Day triple-header, Test megadays, morning games and what CA believes to be a family and TV friendly BBL10 fixture which could become a staple of tournaments to come if fans vote with their feet and their remote controls.

Seven West Media is angry at the lack of star quality in the BBL, which will again be missing some of the country's biggest names in David Warner, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc due to the arduous demands of life in biosecure bubbles. Former captain Steve Smith has also ruled himself out of another late-season cameo.

CA has signed some of the best T20 players in the world, including the format's No.1 ranked batsman (Dawid Malan), bowler (Rashid Khan) and all-rounder (Mohammad Nabi), whom it believes will help fill the void.

It is also confident white-ball stars Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell will not miss any games as they move from the international bio-secure bubble into the BBL hub.

"We still think it will be a great season," CA's W/BBL boss Alastair Dobson said.

An Australia Day finish and a clear window for Australia's Test stars to play in January had been among the proposals put forward by former TV executive David Barham in his report commissioned by CA to help revive the BBL.

Seven, however, did not wish to comment on the fixture as it prepares for its clash with CA at the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration next week.

However, Foxtel chief Patrick Delany, who is keeping a close eye on Seven's battle with CA, praised the sport's governing body for piecing together a fixture in an "incredibly complex" time and for securing "the support of state and territory governments to schedule the BBL to so many parts of Australia under the circumstances".

CA are using the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic to test new time slots. It has scheduled evening double-headers on Boxing Day and January 7 as part of megadays to coincide with the start of the iconic Melbourne and Sydney Tests.

The crammed schedule has prompted CA to stage morning games, starting at 11.10 in Hobart, on the weekend of December 19-20 as the curtain-raiser to the day/night Test against India in Adelaide.

The season builds to a climax next year with 10 games in five days. It includes three on Australia day. Most of these games are expected to be played in Melbourne, which is set to host the final on February 6.

"Sometimes when you have to look for different things it gives you the chance to try new things," Dobson said. "It's no reason why if they're not successful we wouldn't continue with those in the future."

John Stephenson


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