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BBL contract embargo lifts amid pressure over headline players

A number of big-name players are currently off contract ahead of a season of huge challenges

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
The Big Bash contract embargo has been lifted with clubs now set for a hectic period of completing their lists ahead of a season full of uncertainty and with the league facing significant pressure from broadcasters amid concerns over a lack of star names.
There had been plans to hold a first BBL player draft this year but that has been shelved due to the complexities created by Covid-19 meaning that squads will be completed in the traditional way of individual signings.
However, a report in Nine Newspapers has said that consideration is being given to a central pool of funds to help clubs attract big-name overseas players in an attempt to balance the likely absence of more Australian players due to the need for larger international squads in hubs.
That was one of the major issues at the centre of heated remarks by Channel 7 CEO James Warburton last week when he threatened to walk away from the broadcast deal if the BBL was stripped of a large number of big-name players.
CA has occasionally helped bulk up the pay of major names in the league previously with a marketing element to their contracts, as was the case with AB de Villiers at Brisbane Heat last season and Kevin Pietersen in the past. However, this latest plan would be for the benefit of the all the clubs.
Last month, CA brought onboard T20 specialist Trent Woodhill to work alongside BBL boss Alistair Dobson on reshaping the league and attracting players from around the world as the tournament prepares for its 10th edition and attempts to regain its sweet spot which came prior to expanding into a full home-and-away season.
This year's tournament is currently scheduled to be longest in terms of duration, penciled in to start on December 3 and finish on February 6, although changes are expected to the schedule with the likelihood that it will be played in hubs.
"In terms of players wanting to play in it and its standing in the world game I think it does just sit behind the IPL," Woodhill said from the Australia camp in Southampton where he is an assistant coach on the tour. "Every tournament has got to have an aspect of wanting to improve and I saw that in 10 years of IPL.
"Being around the international stage and being all over the world, people love the Big Bash. People love the colour, love the entertainment, they want to tune in and watch it and overseas players want to come play in it, domestic players love it. It's a great sense of fun but we also find it's a stepping stone for others as well to push for IPL, push for [the] Hundred and international call-ups."
Although there remains significant uncertainty over the international schedule later in the year as countries continue to map out a return to action amid the pandemic, it could be that there is less cricket - and competing T20 leagues - being played than would traditionally be the case meaning more players available for the Big Bash.
The league is confident overseas players will be able to take a full part in the tournament - they are also expected to feature in the WBBL which is due to start in mid-October - despite the various travel restrictions around the world and quarantine requirements in Australia.
"There's constant dialogue," Woodhill said. "We are really excited for the tournament and I'm really excited about overseas players wanting to participate."
Various in-play tweaks are also expected to be introduced for the new season which could include free hits for wides, bonus points and substitutions although Woodhill declined to go into any detail about changes while on Australia duty in England. "I think this season you will see some great innovation," he said.
While the lack of a player draft reduces the chance of a major overhaul of which teams players are based at, there are a number of high-profile names currently out of contract including Alex Carey, Rashid Khan, Peter Handscomb, James Pattinson, Sandeep Lamichhane and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo