Big Bash pins hopes for overseas stars on shorter season

Melbourne Renegades are the defending BBL champions Getty Images

The home-and-away portion of the Big Bash has been condensed in an attempt to make the competition more attractive to players, especially overseas names, as well as supporters with the regular-season matches concluding across the Australia Day weekend at the end of January.

The 56-match home-and-away part of the tournament will be completed in 42 days compared to the 54 days it took in the 2018-19 edition, involving more double-headers, and will be followed by the finals. The BBL will begin on December 17, the day after the opening Test between Australia and New Zealand, when Brisbane Heat face Sydney Thunder at the Gabba.

The full BBL fixture list will be announced on Thursday.

As previously reported by ESPNcricinfo, BBL09 will take centre stage on Australia Day - January 26 - with no international action taking place for the first time in 26 years. The final seven matches of the round-robin season will be played from January 24-27 with two matches - Sydney Thunder v Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers v Hobart Hurricanes - on Australia Day.

With Australia's ODI series in India finishing on January 19, home international players should be available for the conclusion of the tournament.

Last season's Big Bash, the first to have a full home-and-away schedule, suffered a drop in average attendances and came in for significant criticism for being too long and lacking star quality with a number of overseas opting for the shorter, and sometimes more lucrative, Bangladesh Premier League instead. Alistair Dobson, who recently joined from the AFL as the head of the Big Bash, acknowledged that making the competition attractive to big-name overseas signings was a key consideration.

"That's been an important part of it, in terms of giving our clubs the best chance to go to market with a structure and a schedule that is as appealing and accessible for players as possible," he said. "No one we had in during this process had objections to the shorter season, it was overwhelming feedback, primarily from fans, but also players wanted to play more cricket in a shorter period and our key stakeholders were on board with that."

Finishing the round-robin stage by the end of January means that the bulk of the tournament will remain within the school holidays although the finals, the dates for which will be confirmed on Thursday, will take the competition into February although will end earlier than the 2018-19 edition which ran until February 17.

"We've set out at the forefront to make BBL09 as accessible for mums, dads and families as possible," Dobson said. "A big part of that was the feedback we had from fans about the duration of the season. So we've brought the regular season in to finish before the end of the school holidays which was our No. 1 objective this season."

Earlier this year CA's executive for events and leagues Anthony Everard said a holiday weekend of BBL cricket could provide a "crescendo" to the season and Dobson believes it will maintain the interest of the fans.

"[We are] very confident given the structure of the games leading in as well as the finals coming out, and taking long weekend cricket back to Adelaide on that day is a big part of it. It's a tradition for cricket in Adelaide."

The BBL season will follow the first standalone Women's Big Bash which runs from October 18 to December 8.

BBL holiday weekend fixtures

January 24: Hurricanes v Thunder, Blundstone Arena
January 24: Scorchers v Strikers, Optus Stadium
January 25: Sixers v Renegades, SCG
January 25: Stars v Heat, MCG
January 26: Thunder v Scorchers, Sydney Showground
January 26: Strikers v Hurricanes
January 27: Renegades v Heat, Marvel Stadium