Australian news February 8, 2011

Melbourne and Sydney given two T20 teams each


Melbourne and Sydney will each host two teams in next summer's new Big Bash League, and the Ryobi Cup will be pruned to squeeze the revamped Twenty20 competition into the calendar. Cricket Australia's board decided on Tuesday that Etihad Stadium in Melbourne's Docklands and Sydney's Homebush Stadium would join the six major Test grounds in headquartering Twenty20 teams, with Geelong's bid rejected.

However, although the limited-overs competition will suffer with the introduction of the Big Bash League, the board has for the time being kept its hands off the Sheffield Shield. The first-class tournament involves every team playing each other twice, culminating in a five-day final, and after Australia's Ashes failure it would have been a controversial move to cut any rounds or the decider from the Shield.

But if the Twenty20 competition expands beyond eight teams after next summer, something will have to give. Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said for the time being the full Shield schedule was safe, and there were other options if more calendar time was required to play all three competitions.

"It may well be that the Big Bash does expand and there are various options for us that can be considered as part of that process," Sutherland said. "There's absolutely no reason why the cricket season has to go for five and a half months or whatever it is. It can go for longer. We can play first-class matches in September in northern Australia or other parts of Australia if we want to extend the programme and ensure a full programme of one-day cricket or Shield cricket. There's a huge range of possibilities."

For now, the Ryobi Cup has been trimmed to eight rounds plus a final, instead of the existing ten. That will provide scope for the eight-team Big Bash League, which Cricket Australia could have used to grow the game in Victoria's major regional city of Geelong. However, a lack of floodlights at Geelong's Skilled Stadium, together with the desire to push into Melbourne's western suburbs, quashed that bid.

"They were all very close calls," said Mike McKenna, the Cricket Australia marketing manager in charge of the Big Bash League. "In terms of a lot of the measurements the venues were very even. The difference for us was the size of the market that we're going to be serving with two teams in Melbourne, the growth of those markets, particularly the very strong growth predicted in the west of Melbourne, and the team that will play out of Etihad Stadium will be serving that audience."

In New South Wales, the Kogarah Oval and Sydney Showgrounds were overlooked as the board opted for teams at the SCG and the ANZ Stadium at Homebush. The eight city-based teams will reveal their names and colours in the coming weeks, while private backers will also be sought for two new sides, with the existing state cricket associations each set to take charge of only one outfit.

The other major step will involve the distribution of players among the teams, and despite initially considering a national draft, Cricket Australia now believes free agency is a more likely scenario. Teams will be keen to secure their homegrown stars, but there is unlikely to be an IPL-style system in place where a handful of marquee talents are automatically tied to their local city.

And fans will be disappointed if they expect to see stars like Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson in the Big Bash League. There are no plans to introduce a window free of international cricket during which the tournament could be played, and next summer Australia are likely to be playing Test cricket during much of the time when the Twenty20 competition is run, in December and January.

"As we map out the Future Tours Programme ... it's pretty clear to me that there's unlikely to be really clear windows for Australian players to play the full period of the Big Bash League," Sutherland said. "There may be opportunities through the Big Bash League for them to play a week or two, or maybe the finals, but to my mind, looking at the schedule into the future, I think it's probably unlikely at this stage."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on February 10, 2011, 1:43 GMT

    @ D.V.C.- nothing you said is without merit. Spot on. Why couldn't it have been Sydney & Newcastle from NSW. I'd actually like to see a "Barbarians" side full of retired greats like Gilly, McGrath, Warney play (maybe throw in the odd up & coming 17 year old), no home base they played the other franchises regionally like Lismore, Cofs Harbour, Bundaberg & Townsville. On a differnet matter - why can't Newcastle host Test/ODIs when Oz has to play Bangladesh. 15,000 people to a regional match would be way more profitable than in a Stadium. I beleive that Zimbabwe are going to be readmitted to Tests, I think it would be pointless playing Zim in the big cities. BARBARIAN XI - Hayden, Langar, Hodge(LOL), Martyn, Law, Gilchrest, Hogg, Warne, Gillespie, Bichel & Mcgrath. Maybe Hugh Jackman could be 12th man (Did anybody see him in the nets on the Cricket Show this summer v Warne?) Since their bodies may not be able to throwing themselves around in the field- they can have unlimited interchange!

  • Daniel on February 9, 2011, 20:55 GMT

    If they really wanted to expand the competition the way to do it would have been to include the two Territories, and to invite NZ to compete under the banners of North Island and South Island.

  • Daniel on February 9, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    I never use just capitals, but today I feel I must. DOES NEWCASTLE NOT EXIST!?! We are the 6th largest city in Australia, we have a larger population than 4 other cities that have hosted internationals, and yet we are lucky to get one State game every 2 years. I hated the idea of breaking up the states into city teams, but, I thought, at least we'd finally see some regular cricket in my home city - a large city that draws thousands to Sheffield Shield games when given the chance. But no. 2 teams in Sydney and 2 in Melbourne. ACB you are a joke! That is the worst decision ever. I'm sorry my posts don't usually degenerate into this type of thing, but I'm just so mad at this stupid decision.

  • Simon on February 9, 2011, 12:40 GMT

    State vs State has been good enough for 140 years, why change it now? The recent Big Bash (and for that matter all previous Big Bashes) have produced exciting cricket as is. I feel expanding it and making it a franchise is a bit of overkill. But we'll just have to wait and see.

  • Michael on February 9, 2011, 12:22 GMT

    The real problem I see with this format is the suggestion that they may cut short Shield Cricket! Instead they should be looking towards expanding it in number of games and the reward at the end. They can have a playoff style between top teams with vest out of three.

    Money raised from T20 can be injected into the prize pool of Shield Teams and T20 players with Shield and One Day contract should be paid more. Let's go back to grass root cricket and use this opportunity to promote cricket to a new generation of spectators. Afterall it's a shame that only purist love Test Cricket and hate to see it die if nothing is done

  • M on February 8, 2011, 23:48 GMT

    For me if there is anything good that could come from this, it will be that more young players get to showcase their talents on the big stage and maybe catch the eye of the State selectors that little bit sooner. ... ... we all accept that catching the talent early is critical in building a strong ongoing competition... ... on the down side, two sides in one state will be a logistical nightmare IF we have incidents where one T20 side is playing say in VIC and the other is away at WA and the WA leg is to coincide with a 50/50 and Shield match... how does the guy playing in the side staying in VIC go if he is part of the Vic State side? Is he forced to forgo his T20 commitments to be with the touring side ... whilst others that are in the side already in WA get to play in their T20 unhindered???

  • Dummy4 on February 8, 2011, 22:13 GMT

    How ridiculous. For instance, Tasmania has its three regions - North-West, North and South - and why would North-West and North residents want to support a team from Hobart as much as they support a Tasmanian team - a team that represents the entire state. Even Tasmanian bowler, Brett Geeves, said he is worried about the consequences of a Tasmanian team being called 'Hobart'.

  • wayne on February 8, 2011, 21:28 GMT

    Adam P Fitch has just shown one of the potential downfalls: Tasmanians outside of Hobart won't support the team, and I assume parochialism is alive & well in other states too. Also, whatever happened to the floated idea of a "southern hemisphere" league between Australia, NZ, and SA (the Gondwana Trophy!)? There'd be healthy competition there, particularly the Oz vs NZ rivalry.

  • Philip on February 8, 2011, 21:09 GMT

    Another missed opportunity. We could have had the ACT & a NT/Nth Qld team, but there's not enough money there. Apparently, there's not enough money in Geelong either. So, we get the Docklands and Homebush. Oh, well, I suppose that should hardly surprise. The AFL seems hell-bent on killing football in Tasmania by not giving them a team and CA seems disinterested in regional Australia. State versus State is also out of favour. Where is the soul in this move?

  • John on February 8, 2011, 20:27 GMT

    I know a lot of my fellow armchair sports-people hate this concept. I think it is worth a shot though. If it doesn't work then what's the harm? Some cricketers will get a few extra bucks. Some rich guys will get some of their wealth re-distributed and some administrators will look silly. If cricket as we know it deserves to survive then it will. Some things are worth saving at all costs. I think the tiger and the polar bear deserve to be protected. Test cricket...not so much.

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