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Overseas draft a chance for BBL|12

14 February 2022

Big Bash clubs' recruitment of international stars is set to come under more scrutiny than ever next season as the league pushes on with plans for an overseas player draft

The Big Bash League is set to have another crack at implementing an overseas player draft next season, which would force clubs to weigh up whether they chase world cricket's T20 superstars or opt for talent familiar to their set-up.

Amid a chaotic KFC BBL|11 that included dozens of COVID-19 cases and several postponed games, one of the frequent criticisms of the competition was the lack of star power across the league.

By the end of the regular season, just 12 of the original 26 overseas recruits remained due to clashes with international bilateral series and other T20 tournaments such as the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

That's not to say the competition hasn't attracted global superstars – Rashid Khan, Andre Russell, Shadab Khan, Tymal Mills and Chris Jordan all featured this season – but keeping them for the entire tournament has been difficult due to the crowded schedule.

Big Bash officials believe an overseas player draft, which has twice been cancelled due to the pandemic, is a mechanism worth exploring as a way to lift the number of big-name players in the tournament.

Alistair Dobson, Cricket Australia's General Manager of Big Bash Leagues, said getting the world best T20 cricketers into the BBL was "certainly at the top of the agenda" for the coming season.

"One of the most important things each year is to make sure the best players come into the competition," he told cricket.com.au.

"We know how popular the BBL is, all the players tell us how desperate they are to come and play. We've talked for a couple of years now about different mechanisms to explore that, whether that be a draft or working in other ways with our clubs."

But the introduction of a draft could leave Big Bash clubs in a tricky position. Do they bid for superstars such as Faf du Plessis, Liam Livingstone and Shaheen Afridi, should they nominate themselves even for only for a handful of games, or do they stick with what they know in players such as James Vince, Alex Hales and Colin Munro, who are more likely to be available for the whole season?

One thing working in the favour of list managers is the introduction of the draft is expected to come with the ability to retain a certain number of overseas players, meaning the Adelaide Strikers would, for example, be able to keep fan favourite Rashid without him needing to nominate for the draft.

But how many overseas players clubs will be able to retain is still being worked through.

Melbourne Stars coach David Hussey, who spoke to cricket.com.au while preparing for the Indian Premier League auction this weekend as mentor for the Kolkata Knight Riders, said he is fan of the draft concept.

Naturally, Hussey said the Stars' aim was to get the biggest names possible because "we want the best players in the competition", but availability would also be a key factor, like when they recruited uncapped English wicketkeeper-batter Joe Clarke for the entire BBL|11 season.

Hussey said the BBL draft would need to be held as close to the start of the season as possible so that players had the best sense of their availability and proposed early October – just prior to the WBBL – as the ideal timeslot.

James Rosengarten, the general manager of the Melbourne Renegades, also said he was also "very much in favour" of a draft.

"There's a lot of reasons why it would be fantastic, but to me, it gives us best chance of getting the best overseas players and I think that's the key," said Rosengarten, whose club would likely get first pick if a draft is introduced given they finished last in BBL|11.

"We think it'd be a really nice, organised way to do it and we're expecting it to happen. (We're) working on that basis."

Rosengarten also identified availability as a key part of using the first pick.

"The key to the overseas (recruits) is you want to get the guys that can actually play … so with that first pick, I really do think you need to have someone that's going to have a significant availability for the season," he said.

Championship Scorcher Colin Munro told cricket.com.au he would try and keep coming back to Perth for "as long as possible" and conceded the draft could be a lottery for him.

"I've loved my time here … but franchise cricket's fickle, it depends on what they're looking for," the New Zealander said.

"I'll definitely put my name in the hat for them and it just depends if they want to get me back."

Scorchers coach Adam Voges said the draft would remove some of the flexibility clubs have enjoyed previously when it comes to picking their internationals.

"Logistically (a draft) is probably a bit easier but I think that's the beauty of a tournament like this – it all starts from who you recruit as well and their availability," the 20-Test veteran said last month.

"Can you get players who are going to be ready and available for you at the backend of tournaments? That's all the planning we put into place, and I guess a draft nullifies that a little bit. I understand both sides of the argument, (but) I quite like the setup at the moment."

The Scorchers' BBL|11 final hero Laurie Evans said he would love to come back to the Scorchers next season, but also agreed the competition needed to "get shorter, get more exciting (and) attract the biggest players in the world".

"It's nice to see some affiliation with Alex Hales at the Thunder, you've got TC (Tom Curran) and Vincey (James Vince) at Sixers – I think players can be built into franchises," he said.

Clarke, who made a huge impact at the Stars and was the only batter this season to hit five half centuries, said it would feel "very strange" if he ended up getting picked up by another club and the Stars had no choice over it.

Clarke only missed one game in BBL|11 when he tested positive to COVID-19 and finished the tournament with 419 runs at 32.23, the highest overseas run scorer of the season.

"It's not a conversation that I've had but if that was an opportunity to come back again next year (to the Stars), yeah, definitely," he said.