Welcome to the era of the Power Surge, X-Factor and Bash Boost in the BBL.
Three new playing conditions have been confirmed for this year’s 10th edition. The changes involve new Powerplay regulations, the ability to sub in a player at a specific stage of the game and a point on offer for being ahead of the opposition at the halfway mark of the chase.
The traditional six-over Powerplay will be scrapped, replaced by a mandatory four-over block at the start of the innings with the remaining two overs able to be taken by the batting team at any point from the 11th over of the innings onwards
The Super Sub is back, but with a tweak. At the 10-over mark of the first innings each team will have the chance to substitute one of their starting XI with either the 12th or 13th player who was on the nominated team sheet. However, the player being replaced can’t yet have batted in the match or can’t have bowled more than over. And the substitution of the player can only happen at the 10-over mark so, for example, if a bowler is injured in his first over early in the innings he can’t be replaced immediately.
There will now be four points available for winning a match – instead of the previous two – with three points available for the outright victory and the extra point being given to the team who is ahead on the comparison at the 10-over mark of the chase. If the team scores are level at 10 overs, that point is split – 0.5 to each time.
The man behind the innovations
Trent Woodhill, the Big Bash’s player acquisition and cricket consultant, has played a big part in these changes. He believes the new playing conditions will increase the role of the coach and also generate new narratives during a match.
“What it will do is force coaches to start looking at what they’re going to do, I reckon that’s powerful,” Woodhill told ESPNcricinfo. “That’s what’s great about AFL, NRL, basketball, the NFL, baseball. I can’t wait for the day where a coach subs a player after one over – players and coaches will hate it at times, but now there’s no hiding place.
“I want to be able to talk to you about the game itself, rather than what happened beforehand and then what are you going to do next game. This will now show up coaches and captains and that’s what you want to do.
“I love strategy, competitiveness, the contest between bat and ball. I hate lulls in games, I tend to get bored really easily if there’s lull. You realise you can make adjustments to rules which make fans less aware of outcome, make players and coaches unsure of a result.”
He believes the changes strike the right balance between innovation without altering the fundamentals of the game. He also knows – and hopes – that people have different views on the changes, whether they are involved in the game itself or watching on.
“Integrity [of the game] is about high performance and it’s about the contest between bat, ball and fielders. The rules only create more excitement rather than taking away the fundamentals of cricket.
“It happens in all other sports, coaches have a major say in the result. We want dialogue, we want discussion from broadcasters, as to why a coach or captain has made the decision they’ve made.”
The reasoning behind Powerplay regulations
On the change to the Powerplay regulation, Woodhill said there had been discussion on keeping the six overs at the start and adding another small period of restrictions to be used at a later stage, but he felt that would have pushed the balance too far to the batsmen.
“It provides the opportunity potentially for a middle to lower order player to take on a bowler when they only have two players out. Six overs to me is about right. As much as you want more runs and sixes, you also want bowlers to have a chance to showcase their talents…it might be a spinner bowling with two players out, I know someone like an Adam Zampa is really looking forward to testing himself in this type of context.”
When it emerged during the winter that various in-play tweaks were being considered, one of the ideas was for freehits off wides but, probably to the delight of every bowler around, that has not been introduced.
“Across the board it was felt by players and coaches that it wasn’t going to improve bowling skills, it might hamper them,” Woodhill said. “Bowlers have their own plans around bowling to the wide line to prevent big hitters freeing their arms.”
The other key change to the BBL this season has been to allow sides to field three overseas players in their XI.
The tournament will get underway on December 10 with matches initially staged in Hobart and Canberra before moving to Queensland and Adelaide before the end of the year. Venues for matches in January have yet to be confirmed with Cricket Australia hopeful they will be able to take advantage of easing border restrictions.