The BBL has confirmed the long-planned introduction of an overseas player draft for the 2022-23 season to lure T20’s biggest superstars to Australia for this summer’s tournament.
After twice hitting hurdles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s third time lucky with officials signing off on a lucrative, four-tier draft structure late last week.
It marks the biggest change to contracting since the competition’s inception 11 years ago, with foreign players to nominate for the draft across gold, silver or bronze tiers.
Cricket Australia is prepared to pay top dollar for the best T20 talent, and league officials will elevate select players who they determine are the most enticing draft prospects to a platinum tier and bolster their salary, even if they are only available for part of the tournament .
Officials believe it’s better to have T20’s global superstars play a portion of the competition than not at all, and hope subsidizing the top salaries from a central pool will see clubs take players who may not be available for the entire tournament.
CA has not publicly confirmed the salary bands, but it understood that bronze level selections (the lowest salary band) will earn a six-figure sum with the platinum tier worth more than three times that.
A date for the draft itself and the order in which clubs will pick is yet to be confirmed, but players are able to nominate for the draft from today.
The draft is a major step for the KFC BBL in its battle to compete in the expanding global market of cashed-up domestic T20 leagues, with planned new leagues in South Africa and the UAE to clash with the BBL this summer.
International scheduling also poses its challenges with all ICC full-member nations having tours or home series earmarked for December or January.
Players will have to declare their availability prior to the draft, and each club will have a retention pick to secure players who featured for their club in last summer’s BBL, such as Rashid Khan with the Adelaide Strikers and Andre Russell for the Melbourne Stars.
“We’ve been working on it for a little while in ways that we can work with our clubs to get the best overseas players in and we know part of that is making sure we can be as competitive as required from a salary perspective,” said Alistair Dobson, Cricket Australia’s General Manager of Big Bash Leagues.
“A draft is a way for us to work with clubs outside the salary cap but also a way that’s really transparent and fair for all clubs.”
The next major challenge for the league is getting Australia’s own all-format superstars into the BBL as the 61-game season competes with the international summer schedule, with the likes of David Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood currently without BBL deals.
This summer’s schedule features a yet-to-be confirmed three-match ODI series against South Africa as the only internationals after Sydney’s New Year’s Test until the end of the BBL.
A late request from South Africa to move the January ODIs is yet to be resolved, but with a new Future Tours Program for international cricket to be unveiled later this year and negotiations on the next Memorandum of Understanding between CA and the players’ union to come , there is opportunity to create a window for the league.
“Just as important as overseas players is the best local players,” Dobson said.
“Going forward, whether it’s the FTP (Future Tours Program) freeing up the schedule or working with the national team around the size of the squads and the ability for players to be released into the BBL.
“As we go into a new MOU (between CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association) and a new FTP cycle, all those big things that drive a lot of outcomes for the for the BBL is front of mind for everyone.”
The draft will consist of four rounds with each club required to make a minimum of two picks, but a maximum of three.
Only platinum players are eligible to be selected in the first round (picks 1-8).
Trent Woodhill, the BBL’s Player Acquisition consultant, told cricket.com.au there was strong interest from players and agents worldwide and he was anticipating an attractive cohort of nominations in the draft pool.
“The pressure is on the clubs to make good picks,” he said.
“Players just love playing cricket in Australia, it’s a favorite place for so many different nationalities, so that’s the pull – great wickets, great crowds and a great opportunity to enjoy summer.”
With the overseas player draft now confirmed, the domestic contracting embargo for BBL | 12 has also been lifted, meaning clubs are now able to enter binding discussions with Australian players.
There is no draft for domestic players, with local player contracting remaining the same.
The competition’s all-time leading runs scorer, Chris Lynn, is a free agent after parting ways with Brisbane Heat last month, while the fourth highest runs scorer, Jon Wells, has attracted interest from several clubs after his contract wasn’t renewed by Adelaide Strikers at the end of last season.
While yet to be confirmed, it’s anticipated the Power Surge innovation will remain, with the Bash Boost point and X-factor substitution to be scrapped.
No decision has been made on the introduction of a Decision Review System (DRS) for BBL | 12 with the league still working through the logistical hurdles.