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I know talking about scheduling can be dry as sandpaper, but we’ll keep it short and to the point.
Sheffield Shield needs to get back to being the premier top-level competition in Australia, otherwise Aussie cricket will stay in the doldrums.
The status quo is not working. The Big Bash League is here to stay and its funds are crucial, but here is a proposal for future fixtures that can hopefully work for the long-term benefit of all stakeholders.
The Sheffield Shield is to run for all ten matches in an 11-week period, with a one-week break for a representative or hosting tour match. The dates will run from the start of October to mid-December, but there’s no time for a final, unfortunately.
The second five weeks of the Shield will run concurrently with the first four or five Tests of the summer.
The BBL will start in mid-December, but the final two Tests of the summer series, the Boxing Day and New Year matches, will remain unchanged.
All Australian players are released to the BBL until the completion of the series at end of January or very early February. This would require the BBL to be shortened by about two weeks. There wouldn’t need to be any reduction in the number of games – although sometimes less is more – only a tightening of the schedule, which can be easily done by playing more games on weekends.
The IPL schedule is 51 days compared to the BBL’s 61, so it’s certainly doable if there is a will.
This leaves the majority of February and the start of March for short-form internationals and, under that, the states playing in a one-day competition.
Each state’s first-grade competition’s scheduling shouldn’t be touched, as this will give players the ability to play most forms of cricket all year round at a good level in summer in Australia.
This block scheduling does somewhat create an issue of continuity, but Australia A tours outside of the season proper will hopefully address this with any identified talent or returning aspirant.
However, another possible remedy to this is adding state tours to other provinces around the world – say, Victoria and Tasmania one year, then New South Wales and Queensland the next and South Australia and Western Australia in the third year.
A couple of first-class matches and three one-dayers against the likes of some Ranji Trophy teams or tier-two nations in their backyards could be exactly what is needed to identify who will thrive at the top level.
Cost is what would probably scupper that last proposal, but if you don’t have bloated support staff numbers and if you ensure a tight schedule with adequate rather than palatial accommodation, you could afford both tours with the loss of just one unneeded Cricket Australia executive’s pay-packet.