Laurie Evans is the quickest batsman in this year’s Big Bash League (BBL) and scored 72 off 34 balls during Perth Scorchers’ final-ball loss to Sydney Sixers on Tuesday, their last regular game at home. However, when the Scorchers play against Adelaide Strikers in the Eliminator on Saturday, Evans will be in Abu Dhabi, 9,000km away.
Evans is one of seven players who will miss the BBL’s knockout matches to play in the early stages of the ILT20 in the UAE. This scheduling clash leaves three uncapped Englishmen as the only overseas signings remaining in Australia and diminishes a season that has revitalized the BBL.
The Strikers are the most affected club, losing this season’s joint-highest wicket-taker, Jamie Overton, the third-highest run-scorer, Chris Lynn, and Adam Hose. Brisbane Heat will also be without Sam Billings and captain Colin Munro for Friday’s Qualifier against the Sixers, who will be without James Vince.
The primary reason for this situation is the fact that ILT20 pays players more than the BBL. Despite a 50% increase in the BBL’s salary cap this season, the ILT20 has more financial muscle. ILT20 franchises can spend up to US$2.75 million on salaries for a four-week tournament, while BBL teams are capped at US$2m for a seven-week period. Players earn more money for less work in ILT20.
Additionally, most players had already signed ILT20 contracts before the BBL’s overseas draft. This means that these players had to go through the uncertainty of the draft rather than simply signing a contract extension.
Evans suggests that the BBL could fit more games into its 44-match season to avoid scheduling conflicts with other tournaments. He also believes that shortening the BBL season could attract the best players and allow for a quicker conclusion of the tournament.
ILT20 franchises have the advantage of a global footprint, providing players with opportunities to showcase their skills in different leagues. The game is saturated with multiple T20 leagues worldwide, which means players have never had so many opportunities to earn a living.
Despite the drain of talent to the UAE, the BBL remains an attractive league for overseas players due to the chance to play in front of engaged crowds, earn a competitive wage, and base themselves in Australia over Christmas.
The BBL has been a major success this year, with a significant increase in crowd numbers and a compelling narrative. However, the talent drain to the UAE should serve as a reminder to its administrators that there is no room for complacency.