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Twenty20 Cricket in Australia

Twenty20 is all the rage in the cricketing world. The popularity of the shortest form of the game has exploded in recent years, thanks mostly to its faster, more action-packed style and the shorter game time. The ‘length’ of test matches and even traditional 50-over one-day games does still put off many people, but T20 which is all over and done within three hours is perhaps more accessible to the masses.

Cricket Australia are now looking at changing things up in relation to the domestic cricket landscape. They’ve already announced a new 45-over split-innings concept for the forthcoming domestic one-day season (originally, the change was just going to be trialled in a few games, but now it encompassing the whole season), and now they’ve all but confirmed that the current 6-team Big Bash T20 tournament will make way for a new 8-team competition starting in the 2011-12 season. What changes might this bring? Who knows, but I’ve got more than a few suggestions…

Currently



The KFC Twenty20 Big Bash has been held each season since 2005-06, between the 6 traditional state teams that play in the other national competitions (Sheffield Shield, Ford Ranger Cup).

Victoria has been by far the most successful team during this time, making all 5 finals and winning 4 (NSW won in 2008-09).

For the first five seasons it consisted of 15 match tournament with each team playing 5 matches, in 2010-11 this has been changed to 20 matches to ensure each team plays three home and three away matches.

Following the round-robin segment, the first placed team takes on the winner of a preliminary final (2nd v 3rd) in the final. Both teams that make the final qualify for the Champions League.

Current Teams

  • Victorian Bushrangers – MCG
  • New South Wales Blues – ANZ Stadium
  • Tasmanian Tigers – Bellerive
  • Western Warriors – WACA
  • Southern Redbacks – Adelaide Oval
  • Queensland Bulls – Gabba

Future



Cricket Australia is planning an expanded/changed/revamped national eight team Twenty20 tournament from 2011-12 1 in an attempt to cash in on the popularity the shortest form of the game has gained in its short history. It appears that this change has been made at least a year earlier than originally planned.

Below are my thoughts, some I believe are ‘original’, some of are based on the loose ‘official’ and speculative details mentioned in other articles on the subject, and some details based on how similar competitions are structured in other parts of the world. 23

My Proposal


Teams/Franchises



Cricket Australia’s latest announcement4 pretty much confirms that there will be eight teams from starting 2011-12. Six of the eight teams (at least initially) would in all likelihood still be run by the state in which they are based – similar to the current arrangement with the state teams.

The additional two teams would come from ‘regional areas’ outside the existing six capitals cities, with locations such as Geelong, Gold Coast and Newcastle having been suggested by other people. I’d probably also throw Canberra/ACT into the mix (they already compete in the Women’s domestic T20 comp, and have had a team in the men’s domestic one-day comp in the past), and I wouldn’t rule out the chances of a second team in Sydney or Melbourne (simply for the fact that the required facilities would be easier to find)

I’d suspect that the eight teams will be attached to a city rather than a state/territory – which would help to further differentiate from the state-based one-day and four-day competitions. Each team would be seen as a ‘franchise’, with the distribution of ‘franchises’ managed by Cricket Australia.

We could see one or more of the local ‘franchises’ forming an alliance with other T20 teams from around the world. Such an arrangement already exists between the Rajasthan Royals (IPL) and the Hampshire Royals (previously called the Hampshire Hawks) – in fact when this partnership was announced it was mentioned that they were also looking at a deal with the current Victorian team, nothing has come of that as yet, but the revamped T20 comp might see it happen.

New franchises would be awarded to teams/locations/groups that best meet a selection criteria. Factors such as financial position (funding, sponsorships etc), suitable home ground, supporter base etc would quite possibly be all used as part of the selection criteria for new franchises.

Squads



Each team would field a squad of 18 players, a squad would need to meet a number of requirements:

  • Maximum of 4 ‘Marquee’ players
  • Maximum of 4 International players (ie. Not from Australia)
  • Minimum of 4 players under the age of 23 – selected via player draft (Based on the age restriction used in the current ‘Futures League’, players would need to be under 23 at the beginning of the tournament.)
  • Remainder of squads made up of Australian players purchased through player auction.
  • Fit under a specified salary cap (with % of each ‘marquee’ player’s salary excluded from cap calculations)



A playing side (12 players – 11 + 12th man or 11 bat/11 field) would also need to meet specific requirements:

  • Maximum of 2 International players
  • Minimum of 1 under 23 player



Teams would need to ensure that they have suitable depth in their squad to cover for injuries and various team lineups as new players can not be brought into the squad mid tournament – except with the approval of the governing body.

If players are selected for international duty then that takes priority but the idea is that teams have sufficient depth the allow for them to compete regardless of the availability of their international reps. These players would be permitted to leave/join the squad as necessary, but teams would not be permitted substitute players in their absence – except with the approval of the governing body.

Marquee Players



A pool of existing interstate players would be identified as ‘marquee’ players – this would also include any members of the current Australian team who makes themselves available for selection.

Teams in existing locations (the six states) would get first dibs on marquee players (likely 3 or 4 per team), who would then be contracted to a team for three years with a ‘get out’ option at the end of the second year. Players could also be selected from the auction pool (described below), prior to the actual auction, to become ‘marquee’ players.

The ‘marquee’ players concept is to allow for the traditional teams to secure players that are synonymous with their team and location.

For their first season new teams would get some form of additional financial compensation to assist them in luring marquee players.

International Players



Teams would be encouraged to recruit international players (a maximum of four, with a maximum of 2 allowed to play in each game to keep spots for local players)

In theory any international player would be available for recruitment provided they are not required for international duty for their home country. If a player was required for international duty for part (but not all) of the tournament then they would still be eligible for recruitment – it would be upto the relevant team to have sufficient squad depth to cover for their absence,

International players can be recruited prior the player auction, however there may be international players available in the auction as well. An international player under the age of 23 is classified as ‘international’ not ‘under 23’.

International players would be a on year-by-year contract (due to the changing nature of the international cricket calendar).

Player Draft (Under 23s)



Squads would need to include a specified number (minimum of 4, no maximum) of under 23s players. A minimum of 1 under-23 player must be in the 12-man playing side (they could simply be 12th man).

The under 23s would be selected as part of a national draft system, with pick order determined by lottery for the first season and based on the previous seasons performance for future seasons (eg. 8th place finish gets 1st pick, 7th would get 2nd pick etc).

Drafted U23s would be paid a base salary and are exempt from the salary cap. Any U23s purchased in the player auction can be paid more than the base salary, but will count towards the salary cap.

Drafted players would hold minimum one year contracts after which they would enter the auction if their team did not take up their optional second year, or if the player would then be over 23.

Player Auction



The remaining Australian players (including unsigned players from the ‘marquee’ list, and un-drafted under 23s), and any interested international players would all be available for selection by the eight teams in a player auction. As its an auction there would be no predetermined selection order as there would be with the draft.

Players purchased in the auction would be contracted for a term of two years, after which they would then be available once again via the player auction.

Player contracts



Marquee players – 3 year contract, with a get-out option after the 2nd year
Under 23’s – 1 year, with a team-option for the following years (provided player is still under 23 for the second year – if over 23 the player would instead have to enter the separate player auction)
Internationals – 1 year, with previous team getting first option on contract for following year (restricted free-agent)
Everyone else – 2 years, after which a player returns to the auction pool

Salary Cap



There would be a salary cap for each squad which each franchise must remain under.

Marquee (only a % of their salary based on the number of marquee players in the specific squad) and under 23s players don’t count towards to the cap. All international players DO count towards the cap even though international players don’t necessarily have to purchased through the auction.

How each team spends their cap is up to them, they may choose to buy a couple of top players for top dollar, or they may choose to buy a wider selection of players with small contracts. How a team spends their cap is likely to be influenced by the marquee and international players they have at their disposal.

Venues



All teams would play their home games at their nominated home ground, for the existing 6 teams those grounds would be:

  • Sydney – SCG (capacity 46,000) and/or ANZ Stadium (cap. 83,500)
  • Melbourne – MCG (cap. 100,000) and/or Etihad Stadium (cap. 56,000)
  • Brisbane – Gabba (cap. 42,000)
  • Adelaide – Adelaide Oval (cap. 33,500)
  • Perth – WACA (cap. 24,500)
  • Hobart – Bellerive Oval (cap. 16,000)



Home grounds for new teams would probably need to meet specific seating/facilities requirements, a couple of possibilities:

  • Gold Coast – Carrara Stadium (25,000 capacity – currently being redeveloped for the new Gold Coast Suns AFL team)
  • Geelong – Skilled Stadium (27,000 cap. – current home of Geelong Cats AFL team)
  • Newcastle – No.1 Sportsground (20,000 cap. – has hosted domestic cricket)
  • Canberra – Manuka Oval (15,000 cap. – has hosted domestic cricket)

Festival Weekend



A mid-tournament festival held in either Sydney or Melbourne (largest venues) where four games featuring all 8 teams are played over a single weekend (two per day, one afternoon/twilight and one night game).

Schedule



For the competition schedule I see a few reasonable options:

Each team plays each other team once

Home/away arrangement alternating annually. For example if Sydney v Melbourne was held at the SCG one year then the corresponding match would be held at the MCG the following year (unless of course that match was part of the festival weekend). Each team would still get 3 home and 3 away games, their 7th game would be part of the festival weekend, ie. neutral)

Each team plays each other team both home and away

While nice, this would significantly extend the length of the tournament which may not be feasible.

Split into two 4-team groups, then play round-robin format, home and away

With a schedule length in-between the first two options it might be suitable, but it could prevent ‘popular’ rivalries such as NSW v Qld or Vic v SA.



I see no reason why the T20 tournament cannot run at the same time as the traditional Australian summer of cricket (well, the international matches anyway, the tournament would have to fit inside a window in the existing domestic schedule).

In the event that a location has two teams, possible given the market size in Sydney and Melbourne, (or two teams in relatively close proximity, ie. Sydney and Newcastle or Melbourne and Geelong) double headers would be scheduled with an afternoon/twilight game followed by a night game. Double headers would be played only on weekends.

Finals



Following the completion of all regular games two semi finals would be played (1st v 4th and 2nd v 3rd), with the winners of the semis progressing to the final and also qualifying for the ICC T20 Champions League.

Alternatively, a 5-team system could be used. 1st place gets a week off. Lowest placed loser of the two preliminary finals (2nd v 5th and 3rd v 4th) is eliminated. Semis are 1st v lowest placed winner and highest placed winner v highest placed loser, with the winners progressing to the final and the Champions League.

The remainder of the final team positions would be determined based on the points table after the regular games (in cases where teams finish level on points, the team net run-rates would be used), these positions are used in determining the draft order for the following year.

Playing Conditions / Rules



Standard T20 playing conditions would apply, with mid-week games played only at night (7:30) to allow people to spectate outside work hours and either afternoon/twilight (3:30) or night games on weekends.

I don’t see any need for any drastic changes to the standard/current Twenty20 playing conditions or rules, with the possible exception of slightly longer gaps between overs and after the fall of a wicket to allow for television breaks if the games were being broadcast live (as is the case in the Indian Premier League).

One change I would suggest would be the way that a tie game is resolved, I’m not a fan of the “bowl-off” where teams bowl at an unguarded wicket and whoever hits the most is proclaimed the ‘winner’, and I don’t think the one over eliminator (One1) used by the ICC is particularly effective (or fair – its just luck) – in both cases I’d prefer the result was left a tie and the points split between the teams.

In the case of a tie at the conclusion of each teams innings (either 20 overs or a reduced number based on Duckworth Lewis) what I’d rather see is a three over, three wicket (Three3) tie breaker.

  • The rules for the Three3 are much the same as the One1, except for the duration being 3 overs instead of 1.
  • Each team gets an additional three overs, with the team who batted last in regular play going first in the tie-breaker (to save time).
  • All batsmen are eligible, regardless of whether they were previously dismissed in their teams completed innings.
  • All bowlers are eligible, regardless of whether they had already bowled their maximum allotment of overs.
  • The bowling team will be permitted to use a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 3 bowlers.
  • The batting team will only have three wickets after which their tie-breaker innings will conclude – even if they haven’t faced their full three overs.
  • Teams must nominate their tie-breaker batsmen and bowlers prior to the commencement of the tie-breaker.
  • Should their still be a tie at the end of each teams three overs, the winner will be the team with highest combined number of sixes from both their main and tie-breaker innings – if this is also equal the combined total of sixes and fours would be used.

‘Radical’ Ideas



Playing the same day, on the same ground as an international T20 or 50-over match – A domestic T20 match could be used as the curtain raiser in either case, however it would probably work best with a twilight domestic game preceding a night-time international T20 fixture.

Could a night game be played on the same ground as a current test match following the day’s play? – Its probably a (very) long shot, but maybe it could happen just on the fifth day of the test so as not to compromise the test pitch, or perhaps with a second pitch on the same square?

Cricket Australia seems prepared to tinker with the formats to keep things interesting as shown by their changes to the domestic one-day comp for next year 5. Personally I’m ok with playing around with the format of one-day games at a domestic level (even if some of their changes are a little odd), but I believe that the 50 over format should remain unchanged at international level to provide sufficient differentiation to the T20 game. For example, a reduction to 40-over games split into two 20 over segments might be more ‘action packed’ but it essentially just becomes a T20 double header.

All-Star Finale



At the conclusion of the tournament an All-Star team would be selected to take on an Australian XI to end the Australian summer of cricket, in much the same way that the Australia v ACA All-Stars match opens the summer.

This would give the under 23s, as well as those pushing to get into the Australian side, something extra to aim for.

International players wouldn’t be eligible for the All-Star team as it should be a showcase of local talent.

13 Players per side (11 bat, 11 field) to get more players involved in the season ending fun.

Players for the all-star side could be selected by a combination of national/state selectors, media and most importantly public vote.

Conclusion



It has taken a few months to actually get around to writing all this down, but I wanted to get it out there before anything ‘official’ is announced – which I don’t really think we’ll see until early next year, probably after the conclusion of the 2010-11 Big Bash.

I don’t really think very many of my ideas are likely to be similar to what ends up happening, but this is really all just a bit of fun. And I kind of hope Newcastle manages to score a team and if I’m still around, I’d kill to be involved in someway.