Ready or not, here it comes. Starting tonight in Hobart, and including games in Canberra over the weekend, the tenth edition of the Big Bash League is the latest Australian sporting competition to kick off in hub life.
In truth, it’s going to be a bit of a travelling hub roadshow.
BBL10 kicks off in Tasmania and the ACT for the first 12 games in 13 days. The Hobart Hurricanes, Sydney Sixers, Melbourne Renegades, Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers will play in Hobart and Launceston, while the Melbourne Stars, Brisbane Heat and Sydney Thunder start their campaigns in Canberra.
From December 23, Brisbane and the Gold Coast will come into the mix, and the Adelaide Oval from December 28, just in time for their annual New Year’s match on December 31.
But by this stage, the hubs will only exist in name only, with teams floating between the locations. That will be the case when Perth’s Optus Stadium joins the party on January 3.
The initial fixturing and hub locations were based on which state borders were open to which states and territories at the time, with the hope all states will have been used by the time the finals are played.
And that’s how it’s all played out. Perth hosts its last game on January 12, and to that point, that will be it for Tasmania, the ACT, Queensland, South Australia, and the west as well.
From January 13, the rest of the regular season will be played in New South Wales and Victoria, with games split between the Sydney Showground and the SCG, and the MCG and Marvel Stadium.
Presuming no further viral outbreaks around the country, it’s hoped the finals matches can be hosted at the home venue of the teams earning hosting rights.
The big-ticket item in all this movement, however, is from the time the BBL starts tonight to the last match of the regular season, it’s cricket every night over the summer. Well, just about.
There won’t be any BBL games played against the Adelaide day/night Test next week, but there will be a match in Hobart starting at 11am on both Saturday and Sunday morning.
And Christmas Big Bash cricket still hasn’t passed the pub test quite yet, with Cricket Australia maintaining a cricket-free zone on Christmas Eve and Day. It’s difficult to see the debate dying down, though.
Come Boxing Day, however, you can have as much cricket as you like, with the second Test against India to be played in front a restricted crowd at the MCG, and then BBL games in Canberra and on the Gold Coast to follow. The Sydney Sixers-Melbourne Stars game at Metricon Stadium won’t start until after 9pm, meaning you’re in for well over twelve hours of cricket if you’re up for it.
When the BBL does kick off tonight in Hobart, you can be assured there will be six other teams watching on intently to see how the Hurricanes and Sixers adapt to the freshly minted ‘innovations’ introduced this summer, and more specifically, when they use them.
For example, when from the 11th over onwards will the batting team call for their ‘power surge’, where the fielding team can only have two players outside the inner fielding circle?
The 19th and 20th overs, did you say? Yes, quite probably. Why would you want more fielders out on the fence in the last overs if there’s an option to get rid of some of them?
And who will be the team to create a bit of pub trivia history by being the first to call on their 12th or 13th man after the tenth over – their ‘x-factor player’ – to replace someone yet to bat or who has only bowled one over? And is the replaced player still paid a match fee?
The one tweak with some degree of merit is the ‘bash boost’, a bonus point handed out halfway through the second innings if the chasing team is ahead of the equivalent ten-over score of their opposition.
If this gives a chasing team something to aim for in a game after a top-order collapse, for instance, then maybe this can be lived with. We’ll find out one way or the other.
Certainly, the initial reaction to the BBL rule tweaks was overwhelmingly negative, and it will be interesting to see how both the Seven Network and Fox Sports commentators try to spin them. Particularly Seven, in fact, given they’re also taking Cricket Australia to court arguing a breach of their broadcast rights contract.
On the player front, we again won’t see the frontline Australian players, with the Test squad locked down in bubble life until after the Brisbane Test in mid-January.
And though the eight teams were allowed a third international marquee player, the most recent news on this front has been the string of withdrawals of English players, reasonably suggesting another two months in some degree of hub life might be a bit too much after going from one bubble to the next since July and August.
Again, this will mean the Seven commentary team will be actively talking up the abilities of the same fringe state players their lawyers will be arguing shouldn’t be anywhere near their TV cameras, but that’s just one of the many delicious sub-plots bound to explode when the Big Bash League blasts off in Hobart tonight.