Tasmania captain George Bailey believes that the nation's cricketers should be playing domestic limited-overs matches more expansively than the current miniature tournament at the very start of the season, which climaxes on Wednesday with the final between the Tigers and Victoria at the Junction Oval.
The domestic 50-over competition has been squeezed into a brief window around September and October for the past five years, coinciding with Australia's drop from first to sixth on the ICC rankings. This scheduling decision was made in part to clear up room for the T20 Big Bash League, and Bailey is one of many players to believe that the List A tournament should either be played concurrently with the Sheffield Shield or in two blocks, one at the start of the season and another later in the summer.
"I think we've got a rich history in World Cups, in one-day cricket, and I think the one-day competition over a number of years, particularly over those years where we won World Cups, has been really important," Bailey said. "It's worrying, I think if that tournament is just being viewed as [a pre-season tournament], and performances aren't being looked at in terms of players who dominate this competition, you want them to be getting opportunities to play for Australia.
"On that front you want to be playing on the best grounds, at the best possible time, to ensure those performances do mean something, and we continue to perform in the really big one-day tournaments around the world. I certainly don't want to be in charge of scheduling. [But] I think it's important to be playing some one-day cricket around when one-day international cricket is being played.
"I think it's dangerous to start picking your one-day team on the back of who is doing well in the Big Bash. In an ideal [world] the tournament block, I think it's important for players to understand what that feels like and how that goes, but I think there's an opportunity to play some more one-day cricket at another stage of the season."
This year's tournament saw a move away from the inclusion of a developmental Cricket Australia XI, but with the offset of a system whereby every team qualified for the finals irrespective of how many matches they won in the minor rounds. Victoria have been the chief beneficiary of this stratagem, advancing to the semi-finals after a washout against the lower-ranked New South Wales and then beating the previously unbeaten Western Australia, who under the 2017 model would have gone straight through to the final.
Victoria's captain Peter Handscomb said that the tournament should not be regarded simply as a pre-season event. "I think saying that this is some pre-season tournament is just wrong," Handscomb said in Melbourne. "There should be so much riding on this. This is the domestic competition, people are putting their hands up to play one-day international cricket for Australia, and people should take notice of what happens here, so there's still a lot riding on it.
"The players understand how important it is, and everyone's out here trying to do their best. I haven't won one for Victoria. It's exciting to get out there and hopefully the boys will turn it on again, and we can come away with the trophy."
Bailey cannot be accused of making his judgments in hindsight, having criticised the tournament format in 2013, the first year in which it was shunted to the front end of the season. "I like the balance of last year and the spread of one-day and Shield cricket," Bailey said at the time. "This is a tournament style set-up, but it's not how it's been done in the past when we were playing a lot better cricket.
"So if it's a quick fix to try to get us playing better cricket I'm not sure. Your one-day side is going to be away for two-thirds of the competition anyway. I think it's a difficult thing to get right, scheduling, but from a players and players association perspective we'd like to be consulted more.
"For guys who might be just on the fringe of that Australian side come January they'd be loving the opportunity to play some one-day cricket for their state at the end of the Big Bash, to get two or three more games in, and much the same when we're playing Tests it would be nice for the guys on the fringe of the Test side to find a way to be playing four-day cricket to push their way in."