BBL hopes to edge out new rival T20 leagues with early overseas draft

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The BBL will aim to leapfrog new emerging rival T20 leagues in the United Arab Emirates and South Africa by holding its first overseas player draft in August with the aim of securing key players as soon as it attempts to revive the competition.

The tournament announced a new overseas recruitment model on Wednesday with top overseas players set to earn AUD$340,000 and given the opportunity to name the number of matches they wish to be available for in December and January without having to to commit to the whole. tournament.

It has been difficult for the BBL to match the riches on offer in the UAE and potentially South Africa, as well as even the BPL and PSL, given that the league is bound by a salary cap of 1.9 million. Australian dollars for an 18- men’s team and for a significantly longer competition. But players will be able to nominate for three award categories – Gold, Silver and Bronze – with an additional Platinum level offered to the biggest names. Cricket Australia will contribute a significant portion of each salary bracket to sit outside the cap to help clubs.

No official date has been set for the draft, but it is understood it will likely be held in August, up to four months before the start of the BBL season. The tournament will again be a full 14-game home and away season likely to run from mid-December to the end of January, with matches to be announced in July. There is a need to meet the competition ahead of the next TV rights deal, with the current deal ending in 2024, after a tough few years made worse by Covid-19.

An August draft is not ideal for clubs, who would prefer it to take place closer to the season in order to have greater clarity on their needs and player availability. However, BBL chief executive Alistair Dobson and BBL player acquisition and cricket consultant Trent Woodhill both believe the earlier draft will give top overseas stars clarity and options to lock to play in the BBL before the UAE and South African leagues become established. what should be a busy January schedule.

“We want to be able to provide players, agents and clubs with a calendar that gives certainty and allows them to plan their year and feel confident that BBL is a place they want to come and play and we know they are waiting. looking forward to,” Dobson told ESPNcricinfo.

BBL is confident that it can get big names after fruitful discussions with agents.

“It’s actually very positive,” Woodhill told ESPNcricinfo. “I feel like there is clarity. Players want certainty. Players’ agents now have the ability to put their players in the spotlight and then work with clubs to promote their players. clubs have a choice. And I think that really suits the competition. And I’m sure they’re going to get some really good names.

The league has previously left recruiting foreign players to clubs to do privately. But Woodhill believes the draft will spark greater fan interest in the process with clubs deciding who they select based on who is available now in the open.

“By having a draft, it’s in the lights,” he said. “It’s harder for clubs to fire a top player and they have the option of drafting them or picking someone else from the draft.

“I like that there is a choice. The choice for the player which group he nominates in but also a choice for the clubs to see how they fit into their existing national team. And then to explain why. they did that You I always want to know why teams went for a spinner or a fast or an allrounder or maybe a frontline bat so I’m glad to see the club’s perspective and the explanation of the club as to why they opted for one big name over another.”

The only downside that has been discussed between the players is that the draft does not allow foreign names to choose where they will play, with a summer stay based in Sydney’s eastern beachside suburbs proving a tool for Popular recruitment for pre-Covid Sydney Sixers, for Example.

Clubs have also been reluctant in the past to pay much of the salary cap to star players for short-term deals, with some clubs preferring to bring in lower-tier foreign players for specific roles over a full season. Andre Russell had a short stint last year at the Melbourne Stars and they missed the final while AB de Villiers’ six-game move to Brisbane Heat in 2019-20 also fell through.

On the other hand, Perth Scorchers signed lesser-known Englishman Laurie Evans last year for a very specific mid-level role. He was available to play the entire campaign for Scorchers on less money and ended up being player of the match in the final, fulfilling the exact role he was drafted for.

There was pressure and prodding from the BBL and clubs initially when the draft concept was mooted, with clubs still keen to do their own bespoke recruitment. However, the clubs were delighted to have been able to work with the league to come up with a draft model that allows clubs to use a single retention choice, so teams like Adelaide Strikers can retain Rashid Khan even if another club writes it.

Clubs also won’t be forced to take a big budget Platinum player who is only available for a short stay if they’d rather sign a lesser name in a Silver or Bronze category for the full year. Dobson, Woodhill and the clubs met weekly on Zoom to discuss the mechanics of the draft.

“We’ve been consulting with clubs for a long time and they’re excited about what the draft brings,” Dobson said. “I think there’s a bit of trepidation around the pressure and it’s new territory for clubs in terms of being live on draft day or draft night and I think we’re delighted. to see how they handle it.

“Obviously success is the quality of the players we fit in. But behind that is the amount of interest and stories we can tell, speculation and debate and potentially controversy around it. because we think everything is going to be great preparation for the start of the BBL season.”

Woodhill, who was officially the Melbourne Stars roster manager and worked on bidding strategy with Royal Challengers Bangalore during his IPL training time, had no doubts what his approach would be. entered the repechage with a club.

“You can’t underestimate the power of the stars,” Woodhill said. “Some teams see it as a whole year approach. I would look at how many wins do we need to make the top five and then look to find the best possible player in the draft to help me get there. If it’s seven games, then we need to get all seven games, so that’s my first goal.

“So it’s hard to look past an Andre Russell, a Sunil Narine or a Kieron Pollard, Faf du Plessis, because they win a lot of player of the match awards. So I’m living high.”

Alex Malcolm is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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