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CA releases schedule for revamped BBL

Big international names and crowds returning en masse are expected to breathe life back into the Big Bash League this summer.

The 12th edition of Australia’s Twenty20 tournament will start in Canberra on December 13 when the Sydney Thunder host the Melbourne Stars.

A record 17 grounds, including first-time venues in Albury, Cairns and North Sydney, will be used across the 45-game tournament.

After a difficult last few seasons, complicated by COVID-19, BBL boss Alistair Dobson is confident interest in the competition will rise again.

Teams were decimated by COVID-19 last season, affecting the quality of games and attendances at grounds.

Eventual champions Perth played just one home match at Optus Stadium for the entire campaign, relocating east to deal with WA’s hard border closure.

“Just having crowds back at the BBL this summer is exciting, it’s been a tough couple of years on that front,” Dobson told AAP as CA announced the BBL schedule on Thursday.

“We’ve built a schedule that we think gives the maximum opportunity for fans to get back to games.

“Our broadcasters have made it very loud and clear to us that big crowds in big stadiums work.

“The backdrop of the best sport on TV, it’s not necessarily unique to cricket, but it’s certainly one of the key features of the BBL.”

The introduction of the overseas player draft will add another element to the tournament, with former South African captain Faf du Plessis already confirmed and more big names to be announced as soon as next week.

This week’s official cancellation of the ODI series between Australia and South Africa in January has opened the door for more international stars to feature in the BBL after the conclusion of the New Year’s Test at the SCG.

Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Swepson, Nathan Lyon and Alex Carey are contracted to BBL franchises, while Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith want to return to the competition.

Melbourne Stars guns Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa, Australia’s white-ball skipper Aaron Finch and Perth Scorchers pair Mitch Marsh and Ashton Agar will be free to participate in the entire BBL if they are not called up to the Test squad.

“Now that we have some certainty on the summer there will be an opportunity for our clubs to have conversations with those players with more clarity,” Dobson said.

“We’re optimistic it creates a window but also know how busy a summer and year the those multi-format Australian players have ahead of them.”

BBL 12 will conclude with the final on February 4.

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