Cricket Australia set to launch Ashes review
Australian cricket's future could be transformed at a board meeting in Melbourne tomorrow, where Cricket Australia's directors are expected to launch a review of the failed Ashes campaign while also making radical changes to the domestic scene. The board is set to decide on the eight new teams that will take part in next summer's expanded Big Bash League, a tournament that won't include the traditional state sides.
But the more weighty issue is the review, which will look at the wider picture of Australian cricket in the wake of the Ashes disaster, which included three innings losses to England. The review is likely to be headed by someone independent from Cricket Australia, with all aspects of the organisation and the Australian cricket scene set to be examined.
"The view is that it shouldn't just be looking at the players that played the Test series, it should be looking at everything that contributes to the performance," Cricket Australia's spokesman Peter Young told ESPNcricinfo. "So, that's right across Australian cricket, right across all the states, from the point where emerging talent is identified through the nurturing of that talent, the eventual selection of that talent and the management of that talent while it is part of the elite process.
"The feeling is that's not something you can do in 24 hours or two weeks, it's going to take time. The objective is to understand what we need to understand to ensure we're in a winning position when we next play the Ashes and when we host the 2015 World Cup."
But while Australia's long-term future in the traditional format is up for discussion, the more immediate decisions will surround the shortest version of the game. The so-called Big Bash League will kick off next season, with city-based teams in all the state capitals, while two new expansion sides will also be included in New South Wales and Victoria.
Three Victorian venues have put up bids to host the two Victorian teams - Geelong's Skilled Stadium, Etihad Stadium (Docklands) and the MCG - and there are four bids from New South Wales, at the SCG, ANZ Stadium, Kogarah Oval and the Sydney Showgrounds. It's less than a year until the competition will begin, and the board is set to decide on which teams will contest the inaugural tournament.
"The concept is that as this league grows it will be more like an AFL or NRL competition and less like a competition representing states," Young said. "The recommendation tomorrow will be on the initial eight teams. There is a possibility that we will move to a greater number than eight in the near future, but the launching pad for the Big Bash League will be eight teams."
However, what won't be decided this week is how the players will be allocated to the new sides. Cricket Australia is keen to see all the teams begin on an even footing, which means that players' existing state affiliations will have to be ignored, and the merits of a national draft will be weighed up against the possibility of free agency, which is favoured by the Australian Cricketers' Association.
"There have been some observations about, say, a Perth player doesn't want to end up playing for Brisbane because it's a long way from home," Young said. "There's also been an observation that all the players will be travelling for that short period of the competition, and it doesn't matter where they live. We don't yet have a recommendation on that and the board won't be making that decision tomorrow."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo