Big Bash League: MCG in box seat to win hosting rights for final as reward for sport-starved city

The MCG may have been stripped of the AFL Grand Final but it looks increasingly likely to bag the Big Bash Final as a reward for the sports’ mad people of Melbourne.

Cricket Australia will announce its BBL schedule on Thursday, with the tournament to launch on December 10 in a hub in Tasmania, with early matches also set up for the ACT and Queensland.

However, all venues after December 31 remain TBA in a deliberate move to bide time for state borders to open up for matches in Perth and Sydney, before ideally a crescendo the season in the freed city of Melbourne.

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The MCG is in the box seat to host the Big Bash league decider.Source:Getty Images

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News Corp understands another notable feature of the BBL draw is the way CA will get around the clash with the day-night first Test in Adelaide in just the second week of the tournament.

Instead of putting the BBL on hold for five nights, CA will schedule at least two morning matches during the Test to give broadcasters an entire day’s worth of cricketing action from brunch to bedtime.

The announcement by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian that she will open the border to Victoria on November 23 has also given CA officials increased hope that the country might open up by Christmas and potentially allow for some of the back-half of the competition to be scheduled as home and away fixtures as opposed to all games being in hubs at neutral venues.

However, given the majority of the BBL will be staged in hubs, it is likely to negate the need for CA to stick with the status quo of rewarding the top team with the right to host the final.

Instead, CA may choose to take a Super bowl-type approach and nominate a final venue regardless of who qualifies for the big dance – and it’s understood the MCG is the overwhelming early favourite.

Sydney Sixers are the defending Big Bash League champions.Source:Getty Images

After having its precious AFL season taken away to other states and being locked out of Melbourne Cup Day due to its COVID-19 hell, cricket wants to be the sport that throws open the gates for the city’s starved public to get back to some semblance of normal life.

There is growing optimism the Boxing Day Test will be staged at the MCG in front of a modest crowd of 25,000, but by the business end of the BBL season, there would be hopes that capacity might increase to 50,000 for a BBL decider.

No decisions have been made at this stage on how the season will finish, and if borders around the country are open, CA could still consider home finals for the top teams in the playoffs.

However, there is enormous appeal in simply locking in the MCG to host the final, as a feel-good way to help compensate for all the freedoms Victorians had taken away through the winter months.

The BBL will start in a hub model, with Tasmania the first port of call, however, the competition won’t be a simple case of playing all matches in the one spot before moving on – because the quality of wickets needs to be preserved.

Sydney Thunder won the last MCG final back in 2016.Source:News Corp Australia

Select games could be taken to Canberra, before the Gabba and the Gold Coast come into the mix, to ensure Hobart and Launceston aren’t decimated by too much foot traffic with all teams in the one spot.

Channel 7 sources have privately expressed frustration about night two, three and four of the BBL’s opening week being potentially sabotaged by a clash with India’s pink ball tour match against Australia A at the SCG to be broadcast on a secondary Fox Sports channel.

CA won’t pick the Australia A squad until next week, however, sources suggest selectors will be pragmatic about not milking top BBL talent out of the league on top of the 17 Test players who will already be unavailable preparing for the Indian series in Adelaide.

Originally published asNot AFL but this is a nice consolation, Melbourne

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