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Australian players' Big Bash League headache

Daniel Brettig

June 15, 2011

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Shane Watson struck seven fours in his innings of 38, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 4th day, January 6, 2011
Australian Test vice-captain Shane Watson is a sought-after commodity for the BBL © Getty Images
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Australian cricket's playing and marketing imperatives are again colliding, this time over the matter of Test players taking part in the early rounds of the expanded Big Bash League.

As part of the push to sell the new league and its eight manufactured teams to the public, Cricket Australia wants all of its centrally-contracted players to take part in the first round of the competition, tentatively scheduled for December 16 to 20.

This would allow maximum exposure for the new competition, and also mean the game's most reliable current assets, namely the likes of Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting, could be used liberally in advertising and publicity for the BBL.

However an agreement is yet to be reached between CA management, marketing and coaching staff over the issue of how to use the time between the end of the New Zealand Test series on December 13 in Hobart and the start of the India series on December 26 with the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

"It's still being resolved. We're obviously keen for them to be available to play if the schedule and their physical shape allows it," a CA spokesman told ESPNcricinfo. "They're the biggest names and the most popular cricketers in the country so we'd obviously like them to be a part of as much as possible."

Australia's Test and limited-overs players have always missed parts or all of the domestic Twenty20 competition because it has clashed with the concluding weeks of the Test summer and the bulk of the ODI programme.

But the change to city-based teams and the paucity of genuine international talent available for the first edition of the tournament due to scheduling conflicts has intensified the demand for Australian internationals among franchises.

Given that Australia will have just completed their third Test series in as many months, including the tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa that precedes the New Zealand series, recovery time for captain Clarke, his deputy Watson and the fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, among others, will be at a premium.

Another issue will be maximising the team's preparation for the task of facing up to India, currently the world's No.1 ranked Test team, in what has arguably become Australia's biggest international rivalry outside of the Ashes. Where once the Australians could afford to take the odd preparatory shortcut due to an undisputed ranking at the top, now they have no choice but to plan diligently or face the consequences.

"The coaches are just making sure they've got enough time after the New Zealand series and before the India series starting on Boxing Day," the spokesman said. "We need to make sure their workload is managed. Even if it's agreed that players are available for certain matches, an individual assessment for each player will have to be made at the time regarding injuries, workload and individual programmes.

"These guys are going to be sought after by the BBL teams regardless of how many matches they can play, because they will help to sell the teams to the public."

Last summer the financial and cricketing interests of CA were muddled on more than one occasion. Michael Hussey and Doug Bollinger were handicapped when they were forced to stay behind at the T20 Champions League in South Africa with their IPL team Chennai Super Kings rather than preparing for the Test series in India.

Upon the team's return home, a pre-determined marketing plan to announce the Ashes squad at a public event in Sydney's Circular Quay - 10 days before the first Test - saw the selectors name an indecisive 17-man squad, causing what Simon Katich revealed to be a rumble of instability through the team before the first Test.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Jim1207 on (June 17, 2011, 5:08 GMT)

In last two trips of Australia to India, the results of six matches are: 4 wins for India and two draws. These matches are not dull at all. But I agree from Aussie point of view, they would like to see pacy and bouncy wickets in a game where as Indians might like turning pitches in a game, the reason why sub-continent teams were never good tourists in the past and even sometimes now. It's all how we are used to.

Posted by   on (June 17, 2011, 1:40 GMT)

As an Aussie, I prefer playing India ovwer here, because they have such great players. But when we're on tour, South Africa produces great games while India has such dreary, dull wickets...

Posted by Skylight28 on (June 16, 2011, 7:15 GMT)

Is it really that bad an ask? Think about it this way: There are 8 teams, and between Dec 16-20, these players will probably only be involved in 1 or 2 games each. For a test player, does fielding for 20 overs + batting for a few overs in 20/20 fashion really take them away from being prepared for a test match? Wouldn't they be spending a couple of hours in the nets daily anyway? Of course nets is different from a competitive 20/20, but these are professionals we are talking of here and I'd hope that they can handle this minor temporary gear shift. Wouldn't they bat the same 20/20 way if they were set a target of 100+ in the last 20 overs of the Dec 13 test? So ... is it really that big a deal if they play 1 or 2 20/20 games?

Posted by s.sreekant on (June 16, 2011, 5:43 GMT)

@Sriraj G.S. other thing is that when there is small piece of sledging the indian media climbs and starting tagging the aus as "dirty aussies" diz n that shown true colors and they tag then such things. other thing is that the series between aus-sa there is lot of hostile fast bowling which is great to watch.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (June 16, 2011, 5:09 GMT)

T20 greed is spreading unabatedly through the Aussie Cricket setup and it will consume not only the Australian domestic cricket structure but in the near future will decimate the quality of their international Test team. How the proud and mighty have fallen! Well done IPL. It has claimed its most crucial victim.

Posted by Meety on (June 16, 2011, 5:03 GMT)

@Kane Weston - I know where you're coming from, but at the end of the day you & I have to accept that T20 is not really about interesting the people who comment on this site. Its about people who think a night watchmen is a security guard and think bowling a maiden over is about getting lucky on a Friday night! My son hates cricket but he enjoyed going to a T20 with me a year or so ago, he won't be seen dead anywhere near a game that goes for more then about 3hrs. Sad but true!

Posted by Meety on (June 16, 2011, 4:57 GMT)

@Sriraj GS - agree with you (although I wouldn't label the Indian pitches dust bowls). I do believe that faster bouncy pitches are more conducive to more dynamic cricket. Not saying that slow low turners can't have good cricket - just it misses parts of what makes cricket great. You're dead right about the banter & sledging between say Oz & the Saffas. Don't forget the kiwis too, (they seem to fly under the radar but some of those boys NEVER shut up!) -- -- -- @fazald - I am hoping that they mean centrally contracted cricketers not required to play in the Boxing Day Test! I am prepared to give the benefit of the very SLIM doubt here! -- -- -- @HatsforBats - trouble is some pimply faced teenager nobody has ever heard of (other then family members), doesn't necessarily pull the crowds or MORE importantly - sponsors AND investors! I think the Big Bash already unearthed a few gems & there is no reason why the BBL can't continue that!

Posted by   on (June 16, 2011, 3:26 GMT)

@Gokul Krishnan: You precisely summed up the reason why we don't enjoy Aus-Ind matches as much as Aus-SA series. You get real intense and quality cricket during the Ashes and against SA. But in series against India, half of them are played in dust-bowl pitches just to create stats like you showed (Mumbai 2005?). You get to see banter and sledging as well in the Ashes all ending in good spirit finally. But when Ind and Aus play, someone does not know how to take sledging as it is and ends up giving an abuse instead. Just isn't fun enough.

Posted by __PK on (June 16, 2011, 3:19 GMT)

Who would go to a T20 game to watch Michael Clarke play? And an interesting claim from Meety that Ind/Pak games have less scores to settle.

Posted by Jim1207 on (June 16, 2011, 2:36 GMT)

Meety, I don't think Australians handled Harbhajan's sledging well either. When Katich last week told the same word last week in press - which Harbhajan was "allegedly" claimed to have talked - there was no problem with your media. I don't understand when you say that Indians do not handle sledging well, does that mean Harbhajan and Indians should keep their mouth shut when Aussies sledge and thus "handle their sledging well"? I agree your other points but this point really makes me feel bad.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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