January cleared for Australian Test stars to line up in BBL; David Warner leadership ban may be revoked 

Pat Cummins in action for Sydney Thunder
Pat Cummins in action for Sydney Thunder
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Casey McCarthy

Australian Test stars such as Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood could all feature for a major chunk of the upcoming Big Bash League (BBL), with most of January now cleared of international duties.

The scheduled three-match ODI series between Australia and South Africa in January (12, 14, 17) is set to be canceled, senior cricket sources have confirmed to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

With Cricket South Africa (CSA) launching a new domestic T20 competition and refusing to let players remain in Australia beyond the New Year's Test in Sydney, the series has already appeared untenable.

Australia vs South Africa - Bellerive Oval
Australia vs South Africa - Bellerive Oval

A compensation payment may be required from CSA, given the three matches scheduled to be played at Perth Stadium, Bellerive Oval, and the SCG have now been scuppered.

Efforts to get top Australian players into the BBL post-Test matches have already begun, with Cricket Australia (CA) requesting that franchises keep a spot clear on their lists ahead of the January influx.

The executive-in-charge of the tournament, Alistair Dobson, is projecting future work around permanently keeping the January window free by navigating around international cricket.

He remains hopeful of the inclusion of the majority of Australian Test players in the upcoming BBL:

“There’s a window there where we hope regardless of [whether those ODIs go ahead or not], the majority of Australian players will be available for a window,” he said speaking to SEN's Whateley on Thursday.
“We know the players want to play, all the discussions we’ve had with them, they understand how important the BBL is and how much fun they have when they come and play in it, they’re desperate to find a window of some sort."

BBL administrators looking to lure David Warner

Overturning David Warner's lifetime leadership ban is now being considered, as the league's plans to inject big-name players into the tournament extends. News Corp mastheads first reported on Thursday that CA is set to officially reconsider the merits of overturning Warner's leadership ban, which was imposed in the wake of the 2018 'Sandpapergate' scandal.

Though it is unlikely Warner will play in the BBL given he has not done so since 2011, it seems administrators are taking a shot at recruiting one of the most devastating white-ball players in the world. Warner is the third-highest run-scorer in Indian Premier League (IPL) history, with 5881 runs.

The Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) will discuss the ban at their directors meeting in July, with ACA president Shane Watson a vocal proponent of Warner's leadership being permitted.

Big news about David Warner 👀(via @BenHorne8)

BBL draft to divide overseas players into 4 categories

Earlier this week, the BBL also unveiled that it would be introducing an international player draft in a bid to attract overseas players. International players have historically remained reticent about participating in the league due to the lower wages on offer in comparison to overseas leagues.

Each club, however, is now set to commit $350,000 AUD of its salary cap to overseas players, with CA to cover the remainder for international signings. In the draft, overseas players will be divided into four categories: platinum ($340,000), gold ($260,000), silver ($175,000) and bronze ($100,000), with each club permitted to make three signings.

Australia's Big Bash League (BBL) has introduced a draft system to pick overseas players in the upcoming edition 🙌Read more: #CricketTwitter

The categories have been outlined considering the calibre of the player and their availability, with overseas players often flying in to only play small portions of the BBL in recent seasons. The draft appears to be carefully planned and designed to prepare for a few potential overseas exits mid-tournament, only to fill the void by having Australian stars available in January.

Both the international draft and the presence of the Australian Test stars are key to revitalizing the BBL as it encounters issues with competing domestic T20 leagues in January (South Africa and the UAE), an ongoing player unavailability issue and a new TV deal in the works.

Broadcasters Fox Cricket and Channel 7 are currently unhappy with the product given the lack of high-profile names. Channel 7 chief executive James Warburton called on CA to “put their money where their mouth is” by proving their interest in ensuring Australian Test stars line up this summer.

Steve Smith warming up with the Sydney Sixers
Steve Smith warming up with the Sydney Sixers

Both the international draft and having Australian Test stars involved are the first steps to rejuvenating an ailing BBL, with talks of more drastic measures including private investment in the pipeline.

Edited by Steffi
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