COVID won't stop BBL international stars

Sydney Sixers will be aiming for back-to-back titles when the BBL begins on December 3.
Sydney Sixers will be aiming for back-to-back titles when the BBL begins on December 3.

Big Bash League organisers are determined to bring international stars to Australia this summer, even if it represents a more imposing logistical challenge than staging India's Test tour.

Cricket Australia has announced its WBBL and BBL fixtures, admitting both schedules could change depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic develops.

The WBBL campaign is slated to run from October 17 until November 29.

The 10th BBL season will begin at Adelaide Oval on December 3, shortly after stumps on day one of the Australia-India Test series opener in Brisbane, and stretch until February 6.

The elongated two-month BBL window will result in more prime-time matches, which CA hopes will appease broadcasters and fans, but also mean it is easier to make coronavirus-related tweaks to the schedule.

A busy international summer of men's cricket suggests it is unlikely that Steve Smith and most of his national teammates will play in the BBL.

However, CA is confident it will attract a stack of overseas-based talent despite quarantine requirements, biosecurity measures, government restrictions and other pandemic issues.

BBL and WBBL boss Alistair Dobson has already been working overtime to untangle the red tape that could otherwise block Jofra Archer and other drawcards from taking part in the BBL.

"We're optimistic of having overseas players ... there's a number of things we have in place to give ourselves the best shot of doing that," Dobson said.

"Working with home boards for those players and their agents is going to be more important than ever ... practically travelling here, quarantine requirements - they're all things we are spending a lot of time on."

WBBL contracting could open as early as this week, while a BBL draft for international players is believed to be on the cards.

Quarantine requirements could mean short-term international contracts are no longer viable, also making it incredibly hard to recruit mid-season replacement marquees.

Dobson suggested the availability of Smith and Australia's best players remained an annual topic of discussion at CA, but "our focus since the off-season has been overseas players".

There are no changes to the length of the season in terms of matches, with CA keen to deliver what is stipulated in its $1.2 billion TV rights deal.

Dobson is adamant a full 59-game WBBL season and 61-game BBL season will be staged, even if it involves hubs or other COVID-19 contingency plans.

"I've got nothing but admiration for the way the footy codes have adapted. We're learning a lot from them and our broadcast partners," he said.

A three-week Sydney hub in the middle of the WBBL season will help bring broadcast costs down, as will the absence of BBL games in Alice Springs and the Victorian town of Moe.

Australian Associated Press