Windies in the sights of Big Bash teams
Australia’s newly manufactured Twenty20 teams will make extensive raids on West Indies cricket as the only readily available source of international talent for next summer’s expanded Big Bash League.
Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, all unavailable from their national side’s current Test series against Pakistan due to the Indian Premier League, will be the most sought-after players, but others like the stylish young batsman Darren Bravo, speedster Kemar Roach and the captain Darren Sammy will all be wooed by the eight franchises.
Such a vast raid on Caribbean playing stocks is sure to add to problems of disunity and disconnection between the players, their union and the West Indies board, who have fought out a long series of public arguments over a myriad of issues.
While Gayle (Western Australia), Pollard (South Australia) and Dwayne Bravo (Victoria) all have previous relationships with certain states, they are likely to field plenty of additional offers for their services as administrators come to terms with the fact that marquee names will be in short supply at the time of the competition.
During the tournament’s December/January timeslot, West Indies are the only international team not heavily committed to bilateral tours. India has quickly ruled out allowing its touring players to take part in between matches against Australia, while South Africa, Sri Lanka, England, Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh and even Zimbabwe have international commitments.
England limited-overs players may be available pending the release of the schedule for matches against Pakistan, while the likes of Shahid Afridi and Lasith Malinga should also be accessible. Muttiah Muralitharan has elected to play in New Zealand’s T20 competition rather than returning to Australia.
A desire for marketable players has been made all the more intense by the creeping realisation that Australian cricket audiences seem unlikely to warm instantly to the concept of fabricated teams, having been initially drawn to domestic T20 cricket by the combination of a bright new format, cheap ticket prices and the pre-existing traditions of state versus state.
Negotiations between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association over the MOU governing player payments remain stalled, but the broad terms of player recruitment have become clear. Free agency will allow players to pick the team of their choice, while a $1 million salary cap will be put in place without a maximum contract stipulation, allowing sides to offer a particularly lucrative deal to players of Gayle’s ilk. Two overseas players will be allowed per team, although it will be possible, as in the IPL, to recruit more imports and rotate them through the XI.
The relationship between BBL and state contracts is complex, with one-team states seemingly in a better position to offer two contracts to their most valued players while New South Wales and Victoria will have less to offer their best players due to the presence of two sides.
State administrators believe it would be most equitable to open up the BBL recruitment window only after state contracts have been finalised, though the practicalities of such a move are becoming increasingly cramped by a lack of time.