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Cricket - 15 Jul 2021
Cricket Australia has delayed for another year plans for its Big Bash League Twenty20 competition to feature a draft of international players due to uncertainty about travel relating to Covid-19.
However, there will be a full home and away schedule of fixtures for the 11th edition starting later this year.
An overseas draft was initially mooted as one of a number of innovations for the 10th edition of the BBL in 2020-21, but this was delayed because of the pandemic.
There had been hopes of resurrecting the concept for the 2021-22 season, but ongoing complications relating to quarantine and border restrictions mean it has been pushed back another 12 months.
Instead, teams will once again be able to sign up to three overseas players in the traditional way, albeit still having to navigate the difficulties that the pandemic presents.
It has been suggested that the visits of England and Afghanistan for summer tests against Australia will provide the most straightforward possibilities for overseas signings by BBL teams.
Alistair Dobson, BBL general manager, was quoted by ABC as saying: "We really like the idea of a draft for overseas players and it's something that remains high on our priority list. But we're acknowledging there is a whole list of complexities and challenges around international travel and there is a need for our clubs and players to have some certainty around the contracting landscape at the moment.
“So, we made the call to park it for another season. Instead, we'll work one-on-one with clubs to recruit the best overseas talent possible."
The 2021-22 BBL is scheduled to begin on 5 December and run to 28 January, a shorter campaign than usual.
After the Covid-19 affected season in 2020-21, CA intends to return to a full home and away schedule with 61 matches played at 14 venues across seven states and territories.
The season will culminate with the finals series beginning on 21 January.
Free-to-air commercial network Seven will broadcast 45 matches, while all 61 matches will be broadcast on pay-television operator Foxtel and sister sports streaming service Kayo. Sports radio network SEN will broadcast 11 matches nationwide.
Eight 'mega days' will see prime-time BBL matches follow play in the Ashes test series between Australia and England.
Dobson said: “The KFC BBL is ready to launch into our second decade with a schedule that takes the full allocation of home matches back to fans across the country. This season’s schedule features all the key components that make the league Australia’s most exciting sports entertainment product, with blockbuster matches, big rivalries and passionate fans nationwide. We’re also delighted that this season will be completed within the school holidays, with the final set down for January 28.
“Like all leagues globally, we remain conscious of the need to be agile in response to the challenges of the pandemic. We are confident that the experience obtained through our successful completion of the KFC BBL|10 campaign will hold us in good stead as we deliver the best possible competition for our players and fans.
“This includes supporting our clubs in their recruitment of world-class T20 players from across the globe. We’ve retained the same overseas player contracting structure as last season and expect another top-quality group of cricketers will land on our shores and delight our fans this summer.”