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Fifty-over contest likely to split Sheffield Shield and BBL next Australian summer

The BBL season could start as late as around Boxing Day following complaints about the current structure

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
The BBL might now start as late as around Boxing Day  •  Getty Images

The BBL might now start as late as around Boxing Day  •  Getty Images

A reconfigured Australian domestic one-day tournament will return to major venues and be used as the bridge between the end of the Big Bash League and the start of a three-round sprint to the pointy end of the Sheffield Shield under scheduling proposals currently being considered by Cricket Australia for next summer.
ESPNcricinfo understands that, following a range of complaints about the structure of the Australian season, the likely structure for next season would feature seven rounds of the Sheffield Shield interspersed with a portion of the 50-over competition in the lead-up to Christmas, before the BBL begins as late as Boxing Day.
The T20 tournament would then be squeezed into a shorter timeframe than this season, albeit still concluding in mid-February, comfortably beyond the end of the school holidays at the end of January. Immediately following the BBL, the one-day tournament's final rounds and finals would be scheduled and played where possible on Australia's major grounds such as the MCG, SCG and Adelaide Oval - a common complaint about the recent pre-season carnival format being that most matches are held on club grounds and pitches lacking relevance to the international level.
At the same time, this kind of schedule is expected to allow for the management of an increasing workload for fast bowlers, so they are not asked to jump straight from the BBL to the back-end of the Shield, which would feature the closing three rounds of the first-class competition and the final played, as usual, at the end of March.
Draft schedules for the Australian season, whether domestic or international, commonly go through numerous iterations, with the next meeting of the joint scheduling advisory group, involving representatives from CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association - set up as part of the MoU struck after the 2017 pay dispute - slated to take place in February.
Broadcasters, as ever, will be central to discussions, with Fox Sports holding the rights to the domestic limited-overs tournament and the Sheffield Shield final, while the Seven Network serves as host broadcaster for the majority of the BBL and Women's Big Bash League, which will move to a standalone October time slot from next season onwards.
Chris Lynn, the Brisbane Heat batsman, spoke out against the length of the BBL in its current model following his side's loss to Melbourne Stars.
"I think 14 games is too many," Lynn was quoted as saying. "You do get a few breaks in between, here and there, but it just drags out.
"It's a bit of a rollercoaster, you can go in and out of form so quickly. Yeah, we're down the bottom end, but talking to the players around the other squads, there are some tired boys. And I don't want to be too soft or anything like that, but it's just the vibe I'm getting.
"Obviously the season goes a bit longer when you're not winning much, but even talking to the Stars boys before the game, they said exactly the same. It's something that Cricket Australia will review at the end of the year. In saying that, it's an amazing product."
Intriguingly, his comments were picked up and pushed on social media by Seven.
Other ideas for the season have included an idea proposed by the former national team coach Darren Lehmann, to play one round of the Shield in mid-January opposite the ODIs customarily played by Australia at that time, while the BBL goes on a week's hiatus.
"Somehow they have to find a way to squeeze a Shield round in," Lehmann said on Macquarie Sports Radio earlier this month. "They could do it between the fourth Test in Sydney and the first Test against Sri Lanka.
"That might be the best time to do it - plonking a Shield round - because you don't play BBL matches normally while the one-day internationals are on. If you had two one-day internationals in three or four days you could do it then. It's very hard for anyone trying to push into the Australian Test team to get any cricket."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig