David Warner’s Sydney Thunder BBL signing just part of a much bigger challenge

Although as a centrally contracted player with CA it’s hard to see how he could have gone to the UAE’s ILT20, the mere connection of him to the new league was enough to set off alarm bells.

With the increase in T20 competitions, particularly in this January window, what is becoming clear – if it wasn’t before – is that with demand for top overseas players, having your domestic stars available is vital. .

And that’s also why the Warner deal, which will allow him five games before the final, while important and significant, is also only part of a much bigger challenge for the BBL.

The tournament has a big pre-season week ahead. On Monday, the full list of names for next Sunday’s overseas draft will be confirmed along with players assigned to the platinum category whose salaries, like Warner’s, will be topped up by CA.

However, while pouring money on foreign names, CA will also have to look at its own players. Warner’s big deal has spurred talk of what the top Australian names are earning in the league with the best figure, which Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa will hold, currently around the AU$200,000 mark for a regular game of 14 matches. season. It is certain that this will change when the next MoU is concluded.

After being delayed for two years due to Covid-19, the introduction of the project has been a key part of attempts to revive BBL which suffered an identity crisis roughly from the time it first stretched out from its original skinnier size when the dollar signs couldn’t resist.

While it would be an overstatement to suggest that BBL talk has dominated the airwaves in recent weeks, there has certainly been more narrative surrounding the competition than was the case previously in July and August (not all is positive, but all publicity, right?).

The bottom line, however, will be how the tournament plays out on the pitch in December and January after two seasons of battling border closures, bubbles and pandemic crowd restrictions. While Covid brought unprecedented challenges – and keeping the tournament afloat was a Herculean challenge (it’s debatable whether that went too far) – the warning signs were there in advance.

The central debate around the BBL will always be its duration, which runs this season over almost eight weeks with the final in early February. Apart from the IPL, whose dedicated window is only getting bigger, it is the longest national T20 tournament of this type. And, for the top players, the money still doesn’t match what’s on offer in the UAE or South Africa for a shorter competition.

It remains to be seen if a step back can be taken when setting up the new broadcast deal (a less is more approach), but this season will be a test of whether the current length remains viable. Or you have to find a lot more money. It is expected that the majority of platinum foreign players in the draft will only be available until the end of December before dispersing for the new tournaments. Replacements can be signed but won’t be the A-listers, although that doesn’t mean they won’t be good players.

In theory, Australian Test players will be able to step into the breach after the last game against South Africa in Sydney, now that the ODI series has been canceled as CSA puts its new domestic league first. Warner, along with Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne, are inked now, but there may not be many others.

Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins will rest while the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Steven Smith was undecided ahead of the four-test India tour. However, in many ways, the player who best sums up BBL’s current dilemma is Josh Hazlewood. He is the No. 1 men’s T20I bowler in the world and may not line up in the Australian national tournament depending on his workload.

In the recently confirmed men’s FTP, CA did what they could to try and forge a small mid-January window for the BBL. Their white-ball-only players will be free, which is crucial, but testing demands will overlap most seasons. In the summer of 2023-24, for example, which could potentially prove the swansong of Warner’s international career, there are set to be Tests against the West Indies in January (pushed later by the whole season constrained by the ODI World Cup). In 2024-25 there are two tests in Sri Lanka and in January 2026-27 there is a test tour in India.

That’s not to say it’s the wrong decisions, there’s a wider debate about what the BBL wants to be. It’s a relief in many ways that in Australia Test cricket remains such an important feature, but it does mean that the main issues keep coming back to themselves. When it comes to Australia’s home season, there’s always a desire to cram the majority of major men’s cricket into a two-month window in December and January outside of World Cup years like this. . Taking advantage of school holidays is an understandable goal, but it leaves very little room for manoeuvre.

Talk to the folks at CA and they’ll tell you that the BBL and international career has always co-existed and may continue to do so, but the way the game is evolving, they’re becoming more of an exception in that regard. The next two years will show if this can work in a rapidly changing landscape.

Andrew McGlashan is associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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