Australia news January 23, 2016

BBL hasn't divided Australia loyalties


John Hastings: 'I'd love to be playing for the Melbourne Stars, but any chance you get to represent your country is the pinnacle' © Getty Images

Australia's cricketers are adamant that international fixtures should retain primacy over the Big Bash League, despite a growing tide of questions about the availability of players for the knockout phase of the Twenty20 tournament in what has become its most successful season yet.

John Hastings, James Faulkner and the injured Glenn Maxwell are all unavailable for the Melbourne Stars ahead of Sunday's BBL final against the Sydney Thunder, who are in the fortunate position of not having any Australian players on ODI duty. There have been greater murmurings than ever before about the logic of quarantining national team players from the BBL, particularly for dead rubber ODI matches against India.

However Hastings, the Australian captain Steven Smith and the T20 international captain Aaron Finch have spoken strongly in favour of international cricket's undiminished standing as the pinnacle of their careers. Hastings even went as far as arguing that a blurring of the line between international duty and BBL commitments would set a dangerous precedent for the Australian game. Other international sides, not least West Indies, have been riven by this issue.

"I hope it doesn't get to that case because for me the pinnacle is representing your country," Hastings said of a scenario where BBL duty took precedence. "The Big Bash has been fantastic, it's growing from strength to strength and that's excellent for cricket in this country. But if we get to that stage we're going in the wrong direction.

"I'm not sure whether or not they can find a window to have that in the international summer. I'd love to be playing for the Melbourne Stars, but any chance you get to represent your country is the pinnacle. So for me it's very much focused on trying to get through this next game, have 5-0, then look ahead to the Twenty20 internationals."

While Hastings and Faulkner will carry on with national duty, the Australian selectors chose to rest Kane Richardson from the fifth ODI in Sydney with future international assignments in mind. Richardson's Adelaide Strikers had been knocked out in the semi-finals of the BBL, and it is clear that future T20 and ODI assignments against India, New Zealand and South Africa were the major factors in resting him.

Smith said that there was communication between BBL clubs and the national selectors about availability, and noted that some compromises had been made, like choosing Nathan Lyon for the latter part of the ODI series after he had played a few matches for the Sydney Sixers. But he also stated that there was no pressure on the selectors or the captain to concede ground to the BBL.

"As far as I'm concerned it's having the best team available to win the game for Australia, for me the BBL's irrelevant," Smith said. "I want my team to do what we can to win every series we play in. We have been pretty fair, we've released a couple of guys to play in the Big Bash when they haven't been playing.

"For me it's about making sure we've got the guys to do the job for Australia. [The BBL] is run beautifully. It's at a good time of the year for guys to play white-ball cricket. I'm happy with where everything's at."

Perhaps the greatest factor in allowing the currently balanced state of affairs to exist is how the BBL and its clubs remain under the ultimate control of Cricket Australia. While private ownership was touted at the start of the tournament six years ago, and has re-emerged as a thought bubble this summer, ownership of the BBL allows CA to work its levers effectively without having to deal with indignant private owners over international availability.

By extension, the game's administrators are also able to ensure that the BBL remains a competition designed to grow cricket's audience in Australia and to complement the international schedule, rather than cannibalising it. Having invested much in creating the competition, CA's decision makers are confident that they don't need to worry about making Australian players more available to the BBL, for it has proven that it can stand up without them.

"I think every player is on the same page, they'd love to be a part of the BBL finals," Finch said. "But at the same time I think no one would give up playing cricket for Australia for a second to play for a franchise-based side, so is there a better way they can work it out? I'm not sure what the answer is to that because I think the window is quite small to fit a BBL type setup in.

"When you're looking at getting the best international players in the world available for it as well, I think that's also a big contributor to the timing. And while it would be lovely to play in the finals - although Renegades weren't there - at the same time no one is going to miss playing for Australia."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Terry on January 25, 2016, 9:28 GMT

    I think the schedule could have been tweaked to allow Big Bash a window from last Wednesday til Sunday and have full strength sides for the semi finals and finals. Did we need FIVE ODI's? The World Cup is a competition where individual matches matter so a three match ODI series is plenty and better at preparation for a World Cup mindset. We had TWO dead rubbers in Canberra and Sydney. If CA and Steve Smith are so worried about international cricket primacy why are they allowing a situation where Aust will play a Test in NZ with zero formal preparation games?

  • Sharyn on January 25, 2016, 1:18 GMT

    SHAZ101 there is no discrimination. Khawaja won't be playing in all formats in NZ, even though there are a lot of us that would love to see him do so. He is a top order batsman and there isn't a spot there for him right now. There is no way the selectors are going to drop Finch, Warner or Smith to put him in unless they are seriously out of form. Smith is the captain of the ODI side and Finch is captain of the T20 side. Finch won't be dropped from T20 as I think he is still the No 1 ranked batsman. We are the No 1 ODI team with Finch, Warner and Smith as the top 3 and I can't see it changing just yet.

  • Shaz on January 24, 2016, 14:20 GMT

    What a pathatic excuse by selectors.. No place for Khawaha?? Marsh brothers playing with one good performance and this Khawaja produced a single handley 4 huge digs to take Thunder to first titleship. Where is justice??? If he doesnt play in NZ series in all format than we all know descrimination wont end on Aust soil!

  • Mohammad on January 24, 2016, 13:13 GMT

    Couldn't believe he's the same Usman Khwaja who debuted a few years back. Brilliant!

  • AJ on January 24, 2016, 12:00 GMT

    Thats real T20 cricket. Its not about the million dollars its about the quality of cricket and determination till the last ball! Its all about cricketers and the game not about film stars and money monsters! Well done BBL

  • CricMystique on January 24, 2016, 11:27 GMT

    Farewell Mike Hussey, a true legend , a true champ and thanks for helping our guys at IPL Chennai Super Kings, many a young indian aspriring cricket gives you heartfelt thanks....all the best for a wonderful future...

  • Thomas on January 24, 2016, 10:26 GMT

    The Thunder are not only in "the fortunate position" of not having any of their players on international duty, they have a national selector in Mark Waugh to remove any fortune from the equation. His selections have meanwhile decimated the Stars, while Khawaja is apparently not in good enough form to play in ODIs. It's all very "convenient" for Mark Waugh and his Thunder.

  • Cricinfouser on January 24, 2016, 6:57 GMT

    Compare to India, where IPL takes a compulsory slot in the yearly calendar and previously, the period spent in rest and recovering from the already grueling schedule of Intl. Cricket is now used to play even more cricket. Don't tell me it hasn't adversely affected the performance of Indian side. The Australian system is far better, where primacy is given to the International season. In India, IPL has become the new god with people not even ready to question how much more is lost in it than gained. Merely commercial viability is not enough, even if IPL is completely unavoidable, a middle path should be found out, with board stipulating rest for contracted players, for e.g. Dhoni to play only 10 out of 16 games. Alas, this will remain only a futile fantasy. Like 'Hidden unemployment' players like Zaheer will be lost to IPL, while Test performances will continue dipping.

  • Chanaka on January 24, 2016, 6:27 GMT

    I recall - probably in the late 1980s- Alan Border stating he would rather be playing in a Sheffield Shield match for Queensland than in yet another ODI in New Zealand. Back then however Australia was far more parochial and QLD had yet to win the Shield. It'll be interesting to see how this develops if players and fans do become loyal and passionate about their BBL team - so far it's been the tournament rather than a team people seem to value more.

  • Edward Wayne John on January 24, 2016, 1:40 GMT

    AUS players can say that b/c average players can eek out better than average earning in local conpetitions and even better reoresenting their country . It is thd complete oppositefor most other olaying nations .

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