Australia's stand-in ODI leader and Twenty20 captain George Bailey has attacked the decision to schedule the domestic limited-overs competition as a three-week early season tournament in Sydney, declaring the comparatively luxurious Big Bash League schedule should have been tightened rather than cutting further into the 50-over format.
In the wake of the Tigers' opening day hiding by New South Wales on a substandard pitch at Bankstown Oval, Bailey listed numerous complaints about the tournament his team had just embarked upon. These included the difficulties of the five travelling states playing the entire event in Sydney, the loss of opportunities to blend in younger players over the season, and the evolving reduction in domestic one-day games, now down to six per team, from 10 two seasons ago.
As an alternative, Bailey proposed the tightening of the BBL, saying the players would be perfectly happy to play more double-headers and back-to-back T20 matches, rather than the distended competition schedule, that will be from December 20 until February 7. He also raised concern about the six Sheffield Shield matches in as many weeks that will follow the end of the limited-overs tournament, and said the players and their association needed to be better consulted on major changes like the ones his team was now confronting.
"I like the balance of last year and the spread of one-day and Shield cricket," Bailey said. "On the back of this being over in three weeks I think it's going to be really challenging to see six Shield games in six weeks for a number of states, that's going to put a lot of pressure on fast bowling depth to be hitting the ground running come the start of the Ashes. So that's going to be a Shield challenge on the back of that.
"Ideally a quick fix would be to shorten the Big Bash - it seems to be getting longer and longer, we're playing seven games in what amounts to about 12 weeks. No bones about it, that's really important that the commercial side of it and the amount of money that the TV companies are putting into it, they should have some say in getting the format and the scheduling they want. But I guess there has to be a balance. Certainly in T20 the players would be happy to play a more condensed tournament, looking at some double-headers and back-to-back games."
Bailey had himself been used as an example why the schedule needed to be changed, when his Sheffield Shield scoring fell away dramatically last summer while he shuffled constantly between formats, losing his chance to be part of the Ashes squad in the process. But he questioned the logic of departing from a Shield and limited-overs schedule that had been successful for a long time in order to devote as much time as possible to T20.
"This is a tournament style set-up, but it's not how it's been done in the past when we were playing a lot better cricket," Bailey said. "So if it's a quick fix to try to get us playing better cricket I'm not sure. Your one-day side is going to be away for two-thirds of the competition anyway. I think it's a difficult thing to get right, scheduling, but from a players and players association perspective we'd like to be consulted more.
"For guys who might be just on the fringe of that Australian side come January they'd be loving the opportunity to play some one-day cricket for their state at the end of the Big Bash, to get two or three more games in, and much the same when we're playing Tests it would be nice for the guys on the fringe of the Test side to find a way to be playing four-day cricket to push their way in.
"I think the players and the players association are really keen to have more of a say on these types of issues, on scheduling. I'm not saying it's an easy fix, it's really difficult to fit everything in and get it the way you want, but I think it's really important the players are consulted as much as possible around the states, to try and get a balance for what's best."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here