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Cricket Australia closes in on revamped schedule following Channel Seven criticism

Cricket Australia’s revamped schedule is close to being finalised as the governing body attempts to broker peace with disgruntled free-to-air broadcaster Seven.

Seven, whose chief executive James Warburton last week branded CA a “train wreck” and “the most incompetent administration” he has worked with, is among many stakeholders desperate for some clarity regarding 2020-21.

The Australian Cricket Council (ACC), a collaborative group featuring CA chair Earl Eddings, players’ association boss Greg Dyer plus their equivalents at state and territory associations, advanced fixture talks in August.

It’s understood the ACC will meet again on September 9, ideally reaching agreement on amendments to international fixtures and a path forward for the sport’s five domestic competitions.

Broadcasters are not part of the ACC, but have shared their thoughts on CA’s draft schedules and various contingency plans.

India’s lucrative tour is listed to start with a four-Test series, beginning in Brisbane on December 3.

The growing expectation is that Virat Kohli’s juggernaut will instead play some limited-overs matches before donning the whites.

Flipping India’s tour would be marketing manna for Fox Sports, which boasts exclusive broadcast rights for ODI and Twenty20 internationals, and deny Seven a chance to show Kohli’s first few hits of the summer.

The Sheffield Shield will likely start next month in an Adelaide hub, running simultaneously to an Indian Premier League season in the UAE that will feature Pat Cummins and the majority of Australia’s best players.

A one-off Test between Australia and Afghanistan, originally slated for November in Perth, is set to be staged in early December provided CA secures exemptions from the WA government.

Australia's bowler Adam Zampa ,centre, celebrates with captain Aaron Finch, left, and Glenn Maxwell the wicket of India's Virat Kohli.
Camera IconAustralia’s bowler Adam Zampa ,centre, celebrates with captain Aaron Finch, left, and Glenn Maxwell the wicket of India’s Virat Kohli. Credit: Mahesh Kumar A./AP

The BBL, which is set to run in the shadows of the Australia-India Test series, and WBBL fixtures will also need to be adjusted.

Warburton’s frustrations, which erupted as a mid-September deadline for Seven and Fox’s latest instalments in a $1.2-billion broadcast contract loomed large, are varied and set to be thrashed out in crisis talks with CA counterpart Nick Hockley.

Warburton quipped last week that Seven could “telecast grade cricket for free“, concerned the quality of the BBL will dip if biosecurity protocols force stars to bypass the Twenty20 competition.

CA has repeatedly insisted it can deliver a full season and will not discount Seven’s annual rights fee, believed to be worth approximately $82 million.

“We will hold up our end of the bargain. I am sure Channel Seven and Foxtel will as well,” Eddings said earlier this year.

The governing body has scrapped plans to launch a BBL draft for international players, but is likely to partly fund contracts for top-quality internationals this summer.

The BBL’s contracting window opened on Tuesday, when Brisbane Heat legspinner Mitch Swepson re-signed with his club for a further three years.

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