‘It’s exciting’: Players back shorter Big Bash League

The BBL’s playing group appears convinced the decision to adopt a shorter fixture can help revitalise the league this summer.

Australia’s premier Twenty 20 cricket league has been cut back from 56 regular-season games to 40 after frustrations from overworked players.

Ahead of the first match on December 7, the league is also hopeful the changes will generate greater fan interest as the finals series now ends by the time the school term resumes in 2024.

BBL crowd levels have been declining steadily since the league expanded to a 59-game season in the summer of 2018-19.

At the peak of its popularity in the summer of 2016-17, the BBL attracted average crowds of 30,114 fans, almost double the number from last summer (16,720).

“I think players and fans alike wanted it (a short season),” Adelaide Strikers paceman Wes Agar told AAP.

“When it can drag on past the school-holiday break, that’s when it starts to peter off and I think having it compacted is just going to hold interest for longer.”

The shorter season is set to increase the significance of each individual match as well.

“It means every game has a little bit more meaning in the season,” Melbourne Stars batter Joe Burns told AAP.

“A few years ago when it was 10 games (per team) it worked really well so it’s exciting to get back to that format.”

The shorter fixture also makes the league a more enticing prospect for globe-trotting international players, who can now be available for a higher percentage of games.

The BBL’s length had made it an outlier among similar tournaments like the Pakistan Super League and UAE T20 League, which both ran for only 34 games this year.

“(The old BBL fixture) definitely was a lot of cricket and quite a long tournament,” said Sydney Sixers’ English allrounder Tom Curran.

“It was always something that I’ve enjoyed doing but definitely now that it’s a bit shorter, to other people it’s a lot more inviting.”

The fixture change comes as the league looks to solve another long-standing issue – its inability to showcase its best local talent who are otherwise occupied with Test duty.

The likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have been unsighted in the BBL in recent years, with David Warner and Steve Smith both restricted to cameos last summer.

The league’s decision to introduce a supplementary list system is aimed at combating this issue.

Australia’s busy international players can now have an affiliation with a BBL team, receive a flat fee and play for them if they become available.

On Tuesday, Starc signed on with the Sixers who can use him as an ambassador and mentor for the playing group, and rush him into the team at the last minute if he becomes available.

“Clubs and players alike have looked at the new mechanisms we’ve built into the contracting rules and have taken advantage of that,” BBL general manager Alistair Dobson told AAP.


Jasper Bruce
(Australian Associated Press)


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