Cricket Australia needs to get player availability policies sorted

Australian cricket authorities are short-charging fans of the national Twenty20 competition, the Big Bash League, through their policies on releasing players from national duty when needed by their BBL sides for crucial encounters.

The Adelaide Strikers and the Hobart Hurricanes, who contested Sunday’s final, were both affected by this policy.

Adelaide won, but had they failed to do so, no doubt there would have been attention drawn to the fact that their main fast bowler, Billy Stanlake, did not play as he was on national duty to play in a tri-nation tournament involving New Zealand and England.

Even though Cricket Australia released some other players – Alex Carey of the Strikers and Darcy Short of the Hurricanes – for the BBL final, it was clear that the travel from Sydney (where a game in the tri-nation tournament was played on Saturday night) to Adelaide (where the BBL final took place on Sunday afternoon) had affected them.

Carey, whose batting has been one of the Strikers’ strengths, was out cheaply, while Short, normally an ebullient six-hitter who had rung up two 90s and a century in the BBL league stage, was totally off his game. He made a a listless 68 and his strike rate was much lower than normal, something which made a big difference as his team was chasing 203 for a win. Both Carey and Short had played for the national team the previous night.

Strikers captain Travis Head was also in Sydney on Saturday but did not play in the game. He rushed back to Adelaide for the final and made a rather subdued 44, playing second fiddle to opener Jake Weatherald who made a quick century.

Given that the international cricket season clashes with the BBL, the good folk at Cricket Australia need to develop some consistent policies about player involvement in both forms of the game.

Weakening the BBL sides at crucial stages of the tournament will mean that the game becomes that much less competitive. And that will affect the crowds, who are already diminishing in numbers. Sunday’s final involved the home team and yet could not fill the Adelaide stadium.

With grandiose plans to expand the BBL next year so that each team plays each other both at home and away, and to also add an AFL style finals process – where the teams that finish higher up get a second chance at qualifying for the final – Cricket Australia would do well to pay heed to player availability policies.

Else, what was once a golden goose may be found to have no more eggs to lay.

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