Australian news June 27, 2011

Scramble for Twenty20 players set to begin

ESPNcricinfo staff

Hundreds of Australian cricketers will be chasing lucrative Twenty20 contracts over the next month as the Big Bash League teams begin to sign up players. While the Don Argus-led performance review tries to get to the bottom of Australia's Ashes debacle and slump to fifth on the ICC Test rankings, Cricket Australia's planning for the expanded Twenty20 tournament is in full swing.

The six states are this week finalising their contract lists for first-class and 50-over cricket for next summer, but only 14 to 18 players per state will be given a full contract, down from last year's number. Meanwhile, the eight city-based teams must each sign up 18 men, a process that will start this Thursday when the contract window begins.

The expansion of Twenty20 contracts and the decline in Australia's Test performance is a combination that has some coaches concerned. The Western Australia coach Mickey Arthur believes the bigger salary cap for Twenty20 sides compared to the state teams is the wrong way around for a country trying to climb the Test rankings, while Michael Clarke's mentor, Neil D'Costa, is worried that the focus on Twenty20 at junior levels could kill Test cricket in Australia.

Each of the eight teams must sign at least 14 players during the first Big Bash League contract window, which runs from June 30 to July 22. By December 9 - a week before the first match - they must have finalised a full roster of 18 players, meaning that 144 Twenty20 contracts will be sealed over the coming months.

The scrapping of the traditional state teams for the Twenty20 competition means that every player in the country is up for grabs, although the likelihood is that most players will remain in their home states. Sydney and Melbourne each have two teams that must be filled with talent, and every side can sign two international players, with scope to replace those men if their international commitments clash with the Big Bash League.

Cricket Australia has also announced that KFC will be the naming-rights sponsor for the tournament after signing a three-year deal.