Australia news May 3, 2013

BBL tightened for next summer

Australia's domestic Twenty20 Big Bash League will become a "tighter" competition for the next five years, starting later in December and concluding earlier in the new year, after a pre-Christmas start last summer proved costly to Cricket Australia and detrimental to the fortunes of the Test team.

No fewer than 16 BBL games were played before Christmas in 2012, the glut of matches producing paltry crowds while at the same time leaving international players with no first-class matches in which to find or regain touch between the first Test of the summer against South Africa in late November and the last against Sri Lanka in January.

Left with BBL teams complaining stridently about poor attendances on one side and players and team performance officials uneasy about the glaring Sheffield Shield hole in the calendar, CA's response has been to cut fat from the BBL schedule to better utilise the January holidays and allow players, coaches and selectors more relevant matches ahead of and alongside the home Tests, starting with the Ashes.

"The final detail is still being worked out but the general principle is that for the next five years we can start a lot later in December than we did this year," Mike McKenna, CA's executive general manager of operations and BBL chief, told ESPNcricinfo. "If you look at the first year we had eight games before Christmas, last year we had 16. For the next five years we'll have six to eight before Christmas, and the rest of the season will run after the Christmas break.

"One of the things we'll see next year is the Sheffield Shield competition running towards the end of the third Test match, giving every opportunity for the Test team to prepare well for that series [the Ashes]. The international schedule this summer made it challenging because of when the T20 internationals landed. For the next five years we don't have that barrier, we've got the ability to start late and then make it a tight competition - five and a half weeks is the goal.

"It'll be much better for a fan, much easier to get to, and those games before Christmas we should be able to do much better than trying to spread two or even three games into the pre-Christmas period. It kills you."

This decision was among numerous strategic calls made over a two-day Cricket Australia board meeting in Melbourne. The game's custodians discussed how the landscape had changed over the past two BBL-infused summers and also looked ahead to a future that will feature a new major sponsor for the Test team and a fresh broadcast rights deal.

CA reported a small overall profit of $1.5 million for "domestic T20 operations", though that figure included the $2.7 million in prize money raked in by the Sydney Sixers and the Perth Scorchers for earning a place in the Champions League. Sydney's first prize alone was worth $2.5 million.

"That's before we've done the new media rights deal, so the league structurally is in a pretty good place going forward," McKenna said. "We think media rights will be better and we certainly think we'll get back to the crowds we had in the first year with a better program than we had last season."

The place of ODIs were also discussed, with fewer 50-over fixtures to be scheduled in coming seasons. The exception to this general rule will be the 2014-15 summer, when the national side can expect plenty of one-day matches ahead of the World Cup, to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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