By Ronny Lerner
The back-end of the Big Bash League season being played exclusively in Victoria in a hub-style set-up is being considered in a bid to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the competition.
The development comes after the Melbourne Stars’ squad being decimated, with seven players testing positive and needing to isolate for seven days from Friday, ruling all of them out of the Stars’ next two games at least against Perth on Sunday and the Renegades on Monday. As of Saturday night, it was not known if those two matches would proceed.
The Sydney Thunder have also endured four positive tests, although they still managed to defeat the Adelaide Strikers on Friday night.
But with case numbers rising all around the country, there’s a sense of inevitability of more clubs, and players, producing positive tests.
A source with knowledge of the BBL’s rules and planning said that while the radical Victorian proposal would not be a hard lockdown situation, it would not be far off it. All support staff from all eight clubs would go into hotels and live under strict rules.
CA’s strong desire to reschedule as few games as possible could also play a major role in the push towards a move to Victoria where the MCG, Marvel Stadium, Junction Oval and Kardinia Park would be used.
Bringing all teams together in the same state would allow CA to get games away quicker so if a team was unavailable to play due to COVID-19 cases, it would then be able to play games successively in a shorter timeframe without having to fly in and out of different states.
Players from other teams might be used to help the shorthanded Stars field a side in their next two matches, including the Melbourne derby at the MCG. Presently, the men in green will have at most 12 players to choose from for those games.
Those 12 players had tested negative and had PCR tests again on Saturday morning as a precaution.
If they all come back clear again, then the Stars’ next two games will almost certainly go ahead, but as of 8.45pm their results are still not known, as was the status of the game proceeding at 3.30pm Sunday.
A source close to the situation suggested the fate of the match might not be decided on until early Sunday morning.
If the Stars have more positive tests, the option for top-up players to be brought in from lower levels will almost certainly be denied as CA’s COVID-19 protocols require a five-day integration period for players who are entering the BBL “bubble”.
Sources with knowledge of the BBL’s rules and planning have indicated that the possibility of the Stars using players from rival BBL teams hasn’t been ruled out as they have already been integrated in the biosecure bubble.
Integrity questions for the competition could arise, however, and it remains to be seen how many opposition players would agree to the unique circumstances.
While CA is concerned about a crammed schedule, the Stars would prefer games to be postponed in the event they can’t field teams, even if it means they play their remaining eight games in quick succession.
It would be a scenario that wouldn’t be foreign to some Stars players who participated in practice matches three days in a row leading up to their season opener against the Sixers on December 5.
The only query would surround recovery for the players who tested positive to COVID-19, depending on how badly the virus affected them.