Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland. PA Wire

Sutherland expects Big Bash expansion

JAMES Sutherland believes expanding the number of teams in the Big Bash League is a "mere formality” and that a Christmas Day game would be "a good thing ... for cricket fans around the country”.

Cricket Australia's chief executive told ABC Grandstand that consideration was being given to establishing BBL teams in new markets including Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia.

"We certainly like the fact that people are very keen to have their own team,” Sutherland said. "We've got interest from all different parts of the country - Gold Coast, Canberra, Geelong, Fremantle.

"I think our inclination is first we'll probably expand the number of games before we expand the number of teams. At the same time we do think it's a merely formality that we will expand the competition.

"We have seen other sports and other codes do that. We don't feel we need to do it for the same strategic reasons as they do or have done, but at the same time we'll carefully think that through and make sure we get it right.”

Sutherland added that a Christmas Day BBL game was unlikely in 2017, but the success of the NBA model was compelling.

"I'm not sure we'll be ready for it then (next year),” he said. "The more I think about it - and you think a little bit about it on the evening of Christmas night and then you see the next day what happens with the NBA in the US and the crowds and knowing the television audiences - I think there is a growing sentiment that that is a possibility.

"We need to think about the right venue for it, and we also need to consult widely. We understand that it's not just a narrow-minded cricket decision. There's a lot more to it than that. But we'll think that throw. I think it is an opportunity and it would be a good thing for the game and for cricket fans around the country.”

Australia has previously scheduled a Christmas Day fixture, though not for decades. The West Indies won the third Test in 1951 by six wickets at the Adelaide Oval in a Test played on December 22, 24 and 25.

Sutherland does not believe player sentiment regarding a Christmas Day fixture would be a significant issue in determining whether to introduce the game as a feature of the BBL schedule.

"I think it's part of the job,” he said. "The Australian cricket team come in a few days before Christmas and they're here (in Melbourne). I know our Women's Big Bash League, our daughter was on a lunchtime flight to Sydney on Christmas Day.

"It's part and parcel of what happens as a professional cricketer today. I think that's a concern or a matter we'll talk through. The reality is a lot of cricketers are on the move at that time of year anyway.”

Sutherland revealed his children will be heavily involved in today's Twenty20 matches.

His daughter, Annabel, is set to make her Women's Big Bash League debut for the Melbourne Renegades and his son, Will, will feature in the Cricket Australia pathways curtain-opener to the Sixers-Scorchers BBL clash at the SCG.

"They've worked hard, they've got opportunities but they've got a lot ahead of them as well,” he said. "Pat Howard sometimes says I'm a client as well in terms of having a parent with an interest in how the pathway works.”


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