Not the expansion you’d expect
In part one of this piece I’ve already looked at why expansion of the current tournament is off the table for the time being. Now I’m going to propose a way that the Big Bash League could be expanded in a way that would require little or no change to the current format. I’m suggesting that the Women’s National T20 competition be transformed into the Women’s Big Bash League and played along side the current Men’s comp – in a way that could benefit both.
New names, Same teams
The Women’s T20 comp is currently contested by seven state/territory teams, and six of these easily translate to align with the existing BBL franchises. Obviously, because there is no Canberra-based franchise in the BBL, the ACT wouldn’t have a team to directly align with, but that doesn’t matter – for the purpose of this theory I’m going to call them the ‘Canberra Cosmos’ (to keep with the Meteor/Comet theme).
Likewise just because there are two Melbourne and Sydney teams in the Men’s BBL doesn’t mean there has to be in the Women’s equivalent – in fact it probably preferable if there isn’t. There are two solutions to this, you could just align with one of the existing Men’s teams (I’d lean towards this option, and suggest the Sixers and Stars), or alternatively you could form a merged/combined identity so that the Women’s team represented both Men’s franchises.
There is also no reason why the same naming-rights sponsors couldn’t continue i.e. the Lend Lease Sydney Sixers, the Commonwealth Bank Melbourne Stars etc. Actually it would be nice if more of the state team sponsors from the Men’s comps also filtered through to the BBL teams – for example, its weird that the reigning BBL and Champions League winners still don’t have a major sponsor.
Same match-ups means (more) double-headers
This, I believe, is the best part of this idea. Where match-ups align for both the Men’s and Women’s competitions the two games would be played at the same ground, on the same day. That is, the Women’s match becomes the lead-in for the Men’s match. This serves several purposes.
- Get’s the women playing on the best grounds in the country rather than being relegated to the lesser, suburban grounds
- Potential to play in front of bigger crowds – sure, the whole crowd isn’t going to turn up to see both games, but it would have to be more than they’d get if the match was randomly held on a Tuesday morning – and the prospect of two games of cricket might encourage more to attend
- Should mean better marketing and promotion of the Women’s game – surely this can’t be a bad thing
These double headers don’t necessarily remove the ability for the double-header of men’s matches we get a couple of times in the current BBL fixture, although my theoretical fixture (which I’ll get to shortly) doesn’t currently include any.
The merged/combined option for the Melbourne and Sydney teams mentioned above might actually be more suitable if the goal were to get the double headers to both venues in the cities – which might be preferable for the franchises that would otherwise be excluded (in this theoretical situation, those missing out would be the Renegades and the Thunder).
Keep the same number of matches for the Women
Currently the Women play a full home/away season of T20 cricket. Obviously this doesn’t perfectly align with the Men’s comp, but this doesn’t mean the Women can’t still play their full season, all they’d need to do is start their comp earlier than the Men and get the first few rounds of games out of the way before the Men’s comp gets underway and the double-headers begin – so that the semis/finals align at the end.
How could it work?
I’ve put together a theoretical fixture for a combined BBL to show how it could work (link at the bottom of this post). This theoretical fixture is part of something larger that I’ve been working on to keep me occupied during my Christmas break – a more evenly distributed fixture for the BBL and Australian cricket summer in general. I’ll post the full thing once I’m happy with it – but it is essentially like a big jigsaw puzzle making all the various cricket (Test, ODI, T20I, Shield, ODD, BBL, Futures League, Women’s matches, Tour matches etc.) fit into a defined period of time, allowing for relatively even time gaps between games, making sure key matches don’t overlap etc etc. But I’ll babble on more about that at another time.
The basics of my theoretical BBL fixture, based on the 2013/14 summer.
- Broken up into Rounds – 4 matches per round for the men, 3 per round for the women
- Matches played Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday – only exception being in the weeks around Christmas and New Year.
- 8 rounds for the Men, 14 for the Women (first 6 rounds played prior to Men’s comp beginning). Followed by finals.
- All Men’s teams play in every round (No team plays twice in the same round, no team misses a round – as is the case in this year’s BBL.)
- One Women’s team misses each round (because there are only seven teams)
- The Women’s T20 and One Day comps would no longer be mixed together, their domestic season would go One Dayers -> T20 -> One Dayers – in a similar fashion to how the Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup seasons are split by the BBL currently.
- Even distribution of games (unlike this year where, for example, the Scorchers played 4 games in 10 days and then had 11 days off)
- Men’s games start at 7pm/7:30pm, Women’s games starting 3:30pm/4pm (with a slight variation likely for Perth games to cater for time difference)
- Canberra’s home matches in the Women’s comp would be played on the same day as Sydney Thunder games in the Men’s comp – but not at the same ground (obviously)
- Men’s comp starts and ends (round 1 and round 8) with the derby matches – Sixers/Thunder and Stars/Renegades
The fixture I’ve put together isn’t “perfect” yet, I’ve still got more tweaking to do. I’m aiming to make sure that, wherever possible, Sydney and Melbourne would each have at least one game per week, and that teams play a relatively even number of weekend and mid-week games.