CA eyes foreign players for 'bigger bash' Twenty20
Cricket Australia will offer states $50,000 (approximately US$40,000) each to recruit high-profile overseas cricketers for next season's Big Bash Twenty20 tournament. The move is a direct attempt by CA to bolster the profile and prestige of Australia's domestic 20-over league, and represents a major departure from states' long-held position of freezing out 'imports' to protect places for local players.
Several states last season took the initiative of recruiting overseas players to improve their chances of qualifying for the lucrative Champions League - not least New South Wales' controversial move to draft New Zealand's Brendon McCullum in for the Big Bash final against Victoria. Sohail Tanvir (South Australia) and Umar Gul (Western Australia) also played in 2008-09, and now CA has thrown open the door for more to follow.
"We want to make the Big Bash a Bigger Bash," CA spokesman Peter Young said. "This is part of the new Memorandum of Understanding and is something that is hoped will really lift the tournament's profile further.
"Our long-term strategic position is that Twenty20 is best played and promoted at state and domestic level. In the eyes of the marketeers, this is something that's a little bit sexy, and we'd like to think the public will take the opportunity to see some top-level international players competing for their home states."
At least two states have begun the process of tapping up overseas players through their international contacts, secure in the knowledge that they now have CA's financial backing. Cricinfo understands that states will be free to approach third-party sponsors to add to the $50,000 put forth by CA in a bid to attract big-name imports.
Western Australia have already confirmed their interest in signing their former star Adam Gilchrist for the Twenty20 tournament after he led Deccan Chargers to the IPL title this year. "I'd say he'd be a reasonable target," Graeme Wood, Western Australia's chief executive told AAP. "We are certainly hoping that would come to fruition."
One Australian player who could yet figure in next season's Big Bash is Andrew Symonds, who on Thursday met with Queensland Cricket officials to discuss his future. Cricinfo understands Symonds requested the state not to reserve a place for him on their contract list for 2009-10, but left the door ajar to play for match payments in 50- and 20-over competitions for the Bulls.
Symonds' agent, Matt Fearon, said his client had yet to finalise his plans for the future, although it is highly likely he will position himself as a freelance Twenty20 specialist, available to play in domestic leagues around the world.
"He is in no immediate rush to make any big decisions, but it's fair to say he is in a good space at the moment," Fearon said. "I think he is enjoying being out of that Cricket Australia environment."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo