MELBOURNE: Cricket Australia (CA) has optimistically announced a Dec 3 start to the domestic Big Bash Twenty20 competition which is set to begin the same day the first Test between Australia and India opens in Brisbane.

Still to be determined is whether the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, set for Oct 18 to Nov 15 in Australia, will go ahead. All international cricket was suspended in March because of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown and Test cricket has only just resumed in England.

The 16-team T20 World Cup has a number of matches scheduled in Victoria state, a current hotbed of Covid-19 which has resulted in a six-week lockdown in Melbourne.

The 10th season of Australia’s Big Bash League is set to end on Feb 6, depending on the continuing pandemic. The first BBL night match will start at the Adelaide Oval just as play ends in the first Test at Brisbane.

Cricket Australia’s Big Bash chief Alistair Dobson said the league would follow public health advice and put in place health protocols to ensure the safety of the public, players and support staff.

“While we know that the challenging, fast-changing coronavirus pandemic could ultimately mean revisions to the schedule, there is nonetheless a lot to like about the way both competitions are shaping up,” BBL head Alistair Dobson said. “Scheduling in the time of coronavirus is not without its challenges, as we have seen. There are factors outside the league itself which could impact [the schedule] at a later date.”

Cricket Australia has several contingency plans in case of further coronavirus shutdowns.

Rule changes for this years competition have yet to be finalised, with the most notable shift likely to be a player draft for international signings.

After the BBL schedule was released, Brisbane Heat captain Chris Lynn, an outspoken critic of the last tournament, tweeted: “The Golden Goose has been cooked again,” before deleting the post.

CA also announced the Women’s Big Bash League would have a full 59-match schedule running from Oct 17 to Nov 29, with 26 matches carried live by broadcasters, three more than the 2019 tournament.

The players union welcomed the certainty given by the scheduling.

“While our position on the length of the (men’s) BBL season and its ability to attract the world’s best players is well known, we appreciate the challenges ... in developing a schedule which satisfies all stakeholders in these extraordinary circumstances,” Australian Cricketers’ Association General Manager Cricket Operations Brendan Drew said.

The last major international event staged in Australia before the coronavirus lockdown was the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup final in March, when Australia beat India in front of more than 86,000 spectators in Melbourne.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2020

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