This year's Big Bash League final day on February 8 will be turned into a bushfire relief fundraiser with Cricket Australia committing all profits and donations from the tournament decider - plus a curtain-raising match between two legends teams led by Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne - to help rebuild amid the devastating bushfires across the country.
While the scheduling of a fundraising game has been mooted for some time, CA's decision to hand over all profits from the biggest domestic match of the season, to be played at the home ground of the top qualifying team, offers the potential of a cash bonanza for relief efforts. This would be particularly true if the current runaway leaders of the BBL, the Melbourne Stars, are able to set up a competition final at the MCG, which was the scene of a Boxing Day tsunami charity match in January 2005 that attracted a crowd of 70,101 and raised A$14.5 million.
Other former players confirmed for the match, called the Bushfire Cricket Bash, include Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Shane Watson, Alex Blackwell and Michael Clarke. Steve Waugh and Mel Jones will be involved in a non-playing capacity.
The game will take place on the same day as the Australia-India women's T20 tri-series fixture at Junction Oval in Melbourne, which has been moved earlier in the day to avoid a scheduling clash, and the BBL final. The bushfire relief match will be staged ahead of the final with the venue to be determined on January 31 when the hosts are confirmed in the Qualifier knockout match.
"I'm delighted to confirm the Bushfire Cricket Bash will be Cricket Australia's major fundraising initiative to support Australians impacted by the recent unprecedented bushfire emergency," the CA chief executive Kevin Roberts said.
"People the world over have seen the overwhelming images of hundreds of thousands of hectares burnt, precious lives lost, hundreds of properties destroyed and the devastating loss of wildlife as a result of the fires. These images have reinforced the need to get behind organisations like the Australian Red Cross which is responding to the immediate requirements of people who have lost loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods."
The confirmation of the charity match is the latest part of cricket's role in the fundraising efforts which have included the Australia Test attack donating A$1000 for every wicket they took in the SCG Test, signed shirts from both the Test side and BBL teams and BBL players donating money for sixes hit and wickets taken.
Warne has also played a significant role by donating his baggy green which was auctioned for more than one million dollars last week with Commonwealth Bank being revealed as the winning bidder. They will take the cap on a fundraising tour around the country before donating it to the Bradman Museum in Bowral.
"I'm very proud of the response not only from the Australian Cricket family but from the broader sporting industry and the community at large," Roberts said. "It's just so humbling to see the collaboration and determination to do whatever is needed to help our fellow Australians in their time of need."
Among other measures taken by CA, the governing body, state and territory associations and the Australian Cricketers Association will release all employees for up to three days of paid leave to undertake volunteer work in bushfire-affected areas. CA has also set-up an A$2 million community bushfire recovery fund to support affected cricket clubs and cricket communities.
"While the financial support of rebuilding is without doubt one of the best ways to contribute, we know the recovery efforts will take months beyond the fires being managed and we want to do what we can to support these communities," Roberts said. "Our people, right across the Australian Cricket family including all States and Territories and the ACA, can together, through this initiative provide more than 4000 days of volunteering to assist wherever they are needed."