ABD, the five finals, and everything else you need to know about #BBL09

The BBL game at the WACA saw another sellout crowd Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Oh hello, it's that time of the year again!

Say what?

Australia's Big Bash League, one of the world's most prominent T20 competitions, starts this week. Into its ninth edition, #BBL09 will have 56 games featuring eight teams, followed by the finals.

And how long does it go on for?

The main season goes on from December 17, 2019 till January 27, 2020. There will be five finals games after that, ending on February 8.

Five finals games? How does that work?

One of the new aspects of this year's Bash is five teams having a shot at the title after the league phase, as opposed to four previously.

Interesting. Who are the favourites to make it?

Plenty of candidates as always, as you'd expect in a salary-capped league with lots of talent on offer. Last season's champions Melbourne Renegades have a new coach and a star signing in Shaun Marsh. Their cross-town rivals and last year's fellow finalists Melbourne Stars aren't too bad either - they've brought in a bunch of proven names including Dale Steyn.

Then there's Brisbane Heat, who have signed up AB de Villiers (more on that soon) apart from a power-packed batting order and a quality spin attack.

The likes of Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers, dominant in the not-so-distant past, will be looking to make a comeback after forgettable seasons last time around.

You seem to have named most of the teams already

Heh, that is true. And we haven't even got to the two Sydney sides yet.

Tell me this, why do Melbourne and Sydney have two sides each? Am I reading this right?

Big cities, local rivalries. The lifeblood of any successful sporting league, isn't it? The derbies are always worth a watch. Mark your calendar for the two Melbourne (Jan 4 and 10) and Sydney (Dec 28 and Jan 18) derbies.

Did you mention AB de Villiers? Are we all supporting the Brisbane Heat, then?

ABD in any competitive cricket game is enough reason to root for them, but he's only going to be available during the second half of the season. Here's a bunch of marquee names to help you pick your team.

  • There's Steyn who will turn out for the Melbourne Stars, along with Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane. Joining them will be Glenn Maxwell

  • Sydney Thunder have England's Alex Hales and South Africa allrounder Chris Morris

  • Rashid Khan will be back in the Adelaide Strikers' blue once again

  • Josh Hazlewood will feature for the Sydney Sixers
    and Steven Smith will join him towards the back end of the season

  • Heat themselves have some exciting hitting talent: Chris Lynn of "Lynnsanity" fame, and Afghanistan mystery-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman among others

Here's all you need to know on the eight squads in the tournament.

Sounds good. Any new names I should learn?

Quite a few. Two exciting English talents to start off with: Pat Brown (the Stars) and Tom Banton (the Heat), who are on the radar of T20 sides around the world for what they offer. The Hurricanes' Riley Meredith, whose pace has been turning heads for over a year now. Tanveer Sangha is a teenage Australian wristspinner playing for the Thunder. There's also the Renegades' Jake Fraser-McGurk, who is an all-round talent still young enough to feature in next year's Under-19 World Cup.

Ooh, that's plenty. Anything else before I go?

Hold on…

  • Just like a lot of American sports and the IPL, this year's Big Bash will have strategic time-outs, which coaches can avail once during the innings, between overs 7 and 13. Whether it will have any "strategic" implications beyond a longer commercial break, we'll have to wait and see

  • There will also be different-coloured hats for the tournament's leading run-getter and wicket-taker, likely to be called the "golden bat" and the "golden arm". Not too dissimilar, again, to the IPL's Orange and Purple Caps

  • Oh and in case you missed it, the Big Bash experimented by doing away with the coin toss last year. There's a "bat toss" for the second consecutive edition, with "hills" and "flats" being the two options. And in case you're wondering what happens if a bat lands on its side, it has already happened