Over the next two weekends, Australia – after a six-game T20/ODI series in South Africa – return home for three ODIs against New Zealand.
While Cricket Australia and Fox Cricket are using the retro angle to entice viewers, including Australia’s throwback 1999 kit, which we’ve already seen in the Alinta ads, it’ll be a very hard sell.
The opening two rounds of the NRL will be on, the Super Rugby’s in full swing, and cricket fans are still recovering from the exciting conclusion to the Women’s T20 World Cup to care about three pointless ODIs trapped behind a paywall. These same ODIs were meant to be after the Sydney Test, but were pushed back due to the pointless ODI tour to India.
This raises the question: do we even need the ODIs in January?
From December to February, the BBL dominates most Australian cricket fans’ minds, eyes, and wallets. Games are played every night, and the Christmas/New Year school holiday period allows families to go.
While the BBL has lost its initial novelty value, it’s still an important part of the Australian summer. Younger fans are adopting their favourite franchises like footy fans do with their favourite teams. Perhaps not with the same basis of tradition or geography, but they’re passionate all the same.
Conversely, ODIs outside of World Cup years are boring. Last year’s World Cup was amazing, but the next one isn’t until 2023, meaning another two to three years of meaningless ODIs.
So why not shift the local ODIs to October and early November in combination with a brief T20 series, allowing players in the Marsh Cup to push for selection while in white-ball mode, then play the Tests as usual, and give the BBL its own window, allowing the Australian Test stars to return?
Based on the last Test team against New Zealand, the Sydney Sixers would gain Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, the Brisbane Heat would have Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne and James Pattinson, the Sydney Thunder would have David Warner and Pat Cummins, and the Hobart Hurricanes would have Tim Paine. While some of these players played in the BBL after the Test series, most were occupied in India.
There’s already proof this will work, with the Sixers boasting a Test-calibre bowling attack in the final (Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Steve O’Keefe, supported by Sean Abbott and Ben Dwarshuis), allowing them to restrict the Melbourne Stars to 6-97 from 12 overs.
Having a dedicated BBL window would make the BBL far more enticing commercially and help it become one of the premier T20 competitions. Imagine a Sydney Smash with the Sixers’ Lyon, Smith, Starc, and Hazlewood against the Thunder’s Warner and Cummins? It would also give some of the fringe players the opportunity to test themselves against the game’s best and push for selection for Australia’s next overseas tour.
It’d be great for the fans too. They can see their favourite players in the BBL, which is arguably more meaningful than a pointless (and probably one-sided) bilateral ODI series.