Gilchrist: Bigger Bash needs to maintain the rage
THE Big Bash League's move to a full home-and-away season is a significant leap forward, but it also presents some fascinating new challenges for the competition.
From the start of the tournament on December 19 to the final on February 17, the BBL is now running even longer than the seven-week IPL.
I'm sure Cricket Australia have identified the challenges that lay ahead with expansion and I'm sure this isn't the first time they've heard about them.
But by changing what's been a successful formula, one key test will be sustaining the interest of quality international players for that length of time.
In what is a very commercially driven landscape now for cricket, despite the length of the respective seasons now being comparable, player payments in the BBL are significantly less than what the big players command in the IPL.
The Big Bash needs to find ways to remain attractive enough that these players aren't purely basing their decisions on a financial component.
One thing that has attracted the top talent over the past few years is the fact the BBL is seen as one of the premier competitions in the world to be a part of and the quality of cricket has been extremely high, with almost every match seeming like do-or-die.
It's crucial that the relevance and significance of the competition's standing in the cricketing world is maintained and that all of us involved fight to preserve that.
We want players to still want to be part of the BBL even if it's not at the same commercial rate that they get at other tournaments.
One attraction in expanding the season is the broadcast coverage and with two broadcasters covering three-quarters of the games and Fox Sports exclusively covering the rest, hopefully viewership will increase.
Playing in front of full houses has always made the BBL an eye-catching tournament and it will be interesting to see if the competition can sustain the bums-on-seats interest into that February period when school is back.
It'll be a telling summer in regards to the volume of cricket.
But the expansion is reflective of the enthusiasm for the tournament from sponsors, broadcasters, players and most importantly the fans and hopefully for the good of the tournament, moving to seven home-and-away matches for each team will be sustainable.
More matches is going to provide greater challenges for the franchises as well. They're going to have to manage their lists carefully with overseas players, Australian internationals and injuries.
It's becoming slightly closer to the demands we might see in a football season for example
I wouldn't be against seeing the BBL increase from two overseas players to three, but I think franchises will need to follow the lead of Jason Gillespie in not necessarily signing just the biggest international names, but quality T20 cricketers like champions Adelaide found in Colin Ingram and Rashid Khan.
One massive positive is I can't wait to see Australia's white-ball specialists feature more in this year's BBL than in previous summers when they've been wiped out by the international schedule.
Our best cricketers have had to watch this amazing show develop and grow before their eyes without having the opportunity to be a part of it and it'll be great to have guys like Chris Lynn, Alex Carey and Aaron Finch available for the vast majority of matches, particularly leading into a World Cup.
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