Sidelined Australian paceman Jhye Richardson is on track for the start of the BBL with the Perth Scorchers, but the club has been denied a training exemption by the Western Australia government for the players and staff undergoing quarantine following the Covid-19 outbreak in South Australia as the Sheffield Shield hub came to a conclusion.
Those who were involved in the Shield matches in Adelaide with Western Australia will remain in isolation until the end of the month and will not be able to return to training until November 30 leaving them just over a week before heading to Tasmania for the start of the tournament.
"Certainly, for the Perth-based guys, we will have a period of time that is not too dissimilar to what we would normally have in terms of BBL preparation," Scorchers coach Adam Voges, who is among those in quarantine, told ESPNcricinfo. "I guess, as all teams will find, it will be a case of getting everyone together only a couple of days out before the first game."
Richardson, who was not in Adelaide so can continue to train, has had a wretched run with his right shoulder that he first dislocated while fielding on Australia's 2019 ODI tour of the UAE, but Voges is expecting him to have a significant impact on the BBL after recovering from shoulder surgery.
The injury cost him a chance to go to the 2019 World Cup and the Ashes, but he returned to domestic cricket last season and had an excellent BBL taking 15 wickets in 14 games at an outstanding economy rate of 7.07. Only Haris Rauf had a better economy rate among those with 15 wickets or more.
Richardson toured South Africa with Australia's limited-overs squad in February and March and played in the third ODI in Potchefstroom when Mitchell Starc flew home. However, he required further surgery on his shoulder in May and has only returned to bowling in club cricket in Perth in the last three weeks.
"He's actually going really well," Voges said. "He's progressed really nicely over the last few weeks in his return from that shoulder surgery. He's played three weeks of club cricket now and he will have another bowl this weekend. He's building really nicely and we're really confident that he'll be ready to go at the start of tournament.
"Jhye had a terrific BBL last year. He probably started a bit slowly but built his way into and was probably the form bowler of the comp in my opinion at the backend. We're hoping for something similar from him."
Richardson has bowled two lots of 10 overs in each of his last two club matches for Fremantle in WA Premier cricket, but he still can't throw properly.
"He won't be able to throw at any real capacity," Voges said. "He's got one of the best underarms in the game. He can underarm from the boundary and his movement to the ball is pretty good so he should be okay."
The tournament will also see the return of Jason Behrendorff who has not played any professional cricket since having back surgery in 2019 following the World Cup. His recovery has been slow but he has also played some club cricket in Perth, bowling in three of the four matches he has played for Subiaco-Floreat.
The return of Richardson, Behrendorff, and Andrew Tye, who has been called into Australia's limited-overs squad after playing just one professional match in the last 12 months due to elbow surgery, has Voges confident about the composition of the Scorchers attack.
"Obviously to get AJ and Dorf back who didn't bowl a ball for us last year it almost feels like we've got two new signings again and they will bring us a lot of experience and it's going to be really important for our attack," he said. "Yes, they're all coming back from injury in some way shape or form but we're hopeful preparation wise that we've got that right and they'll be ready to go for the first game."
Mitchell Marsh is also close to returning from his ankle injury and Voges believes he is on track to play in the Australia A games against India in a couple of weeks.
"He's had his first hits this week," Voges said. "I think that the ankle has been a little bit slower in terms of recovery that he or we would have liked. He's still on track to play the Australia A games that he has been selected for primarily as a batter to start with and we'll continue to work with his bowling but he's making some good progress albeit a little bit slower than we would have liked."
The Western Australian players and coaching staff were forced to isolate at home for 14 days after returning from Adelaide on November 15. The WA government, which has had a hard border to the rest of Australia protect against the spread of Covid-19, has denied the WACA and the Scorchers a training exemption that had been available to the AFL clubs that travelled interstate during the winter.
"It's just a case of when we do get out of quarantine I think we will still have eight or nine days' prep before we get on the plane to Hobart," Voges said. "We've got guys flying in from England, we'll have a couple of our overseas guys playing over in South Africa, Colin Munro is coming from New Zealand.
"We have our guys from the eastern states who we won't see until we get to Hobart as well so it's a bit of a disjointed preparation, but in saying that we will hopefully all be able to come together a couple of days before that first game and at least be together as a team before we start."
Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy will not join the team until they have completed the compulsory 14-day quarantine after arriving from South Africa in mid-December and will not be available until after Christmas. Joe Clarke has been signed as an early-season replacement and will fly to Australia shortly to undergo quarantine in Perth in order to join the squad before heading to Hobart.
Munro, and the Scorchers' eastern states based players in Kurtis Patterson and Fawad Ahmed, will link up with the team in Hobart prior to their first game.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne